Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist.
The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The word maundy comes from the command (mandate) given by Christ at the Last Supper, that we should love one another.
In Roman Catholic churches the anthem Mandatum novum do vobis (a new commandment I give to you) would be sung on Maundy Thursday.
In many other countries this day is known as Holy Thursday.
Maundy Thursday ceremonies
In Britain, the sovereign takes part in the Ceremony of the Royal Maundy.
This ceremony, held at a great cathedral, involves the distribution of Maundy money to deserving senior citizens (one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign's age), usually chosen for having done service to their community.
They receive ceremonial red and white purses which contain coins made especially for the occasion. The white purse contains one coin for each year of the monarch's reign.
The red purse contains money in place of other gifts that used to be given to the poor.
In the 17th century, and earlier, the King or Queen would wash the feet of the selected poor people as a gesture of humility, and in remembrance of Jesus' washing the feet of the disciples. The last monarch to do this was James 2. The ceremony of the monarch giving money to the poor on this day dates back to Edward 1.
Pedilavium: the washing of the feet
Roman Catholic church services feature a ceremony in which the priest washes the feet of 12 people to commemorate Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples.
It was common in monasteries throughout history for the Abbot to wash the feet of the monks in a similar gesture.
Some other churches nowadays also have foot-washing ceremonies as part of their Maundy Thursday services.
The consecration of holy oil
In Roman Catholic churches, Maundy Thursday is usually the day on which the supply of anointing oil to be used in ceremonies during the year is consecrated.
This is done at a special Chrism Mass.