Monday, April 02, 2007

Five (More) Wounds

While idly looking at a woodcut I've used (in slightly altered form) on the "front page" of Paternoster-Row, I suddenly realized that this was not just a picture of a rosary I was looking at: it was a picture of a particular type of rosary called a Rosary of the Five Wounds.


The key is what you can see on the five medallions: two of them have pictures of feet, two of hands, and one of a heart. This woodcut of the Virgin Mary and Saint Dominic is from the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, Germany.

You know how you never notice something, and then suddenly you start seeing it everywhere? That's happened to me with these Five Wounds rosaries. And they seem to be more common than I would have expected, given that today they are only a very, very small minority of all rosaries.

First, a bit of clarification. The first "Five Wounds" rosaries I noticed were ones that had five groups of five beads. A historical example is this one, carved in wood, from the Diocesan Museum in Köln (Cologne, Germany), of a type that appears in the 15th century. (As the museum label somewhat evasively puts it: "Der type erscheint im 15. Jhr.") The photo isn't very good and it's hard to decipher the carving, but the flat surface of the topmost flower-shaped bead has a hand carved on it, the one on the bottom right has a foot and ankle roughly outlined (and upside-down), and the pendant at far right is a pierced heart inside a crown of thorns (broken). The backs of the "flower" parts seem to be carved with a rough circle and radiating "vein" lines.


I've also seen such rosaries -- as in the first illustration -- with five groups of ten beads. I actually do not think this is a terribly significant difference. As a phenomenon that pretty much started at the "grass roots" of popular devotion and only gradually became officially noticed and regulated, rosaries and chaplets of all sorts have always had a good deal of room for improvisation and the development of new variations. There is seldom only one "right" form. If something has the five medals with hands, feet and heart, I'll call it a Five Wounds rosary.

Modern rosary makers do still make and offer these -- here's an example. I find these modern medals less than exciting, but they seem to be all that's commercially available.


Now for the jucier stuff. First, there's the St. Dominic woodcut I've already mentioned. (We know now that St. Dominic Guzman really doesn't seem to have had anything to do with the origins of the rosary, but for much of the Middle Ages and later, people firmly believed he did.)

Next, there's this one:

Here again, we have ten "roses" between the medallions bearing the "wounds." This woodcut is by Wolf Traut, 1510. (Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek.)


And here, an angel in a 17th-century engraving (from the Gruuthusmuseum, Bruges) holds up another version. This one has the five "wounds," and there are five groups of five beads. A sixth medallion shows the head of Christ with a crown of thorns, and it ends in yet another medallion showing the Virgin Mary and Child. The inscription under the engraving says (if I'm reading it right):

"Myn Seele gebenedyt den Heere die u croont in bermhertigheyt ende ontferminghen - Psal. 102" I'm not sure how to translate this (German? Dutch? Low German?) and I can't find the verse offhand in either Psalm 102 or 103, but it seems to be something beginning "My soul [blesses?] the Lord..."


I truly hope the angel is not -- as this engraving certainly makes it look -- proposing to use this rosary as a jump rope. He'll trip. :)



Anonymous Marion said...

I read the caption as
"Myn siele gebenldydt den Heere die u croont in bermhertigheyt ende ontferminghen"

Since it was printed in Bruges its most likely in Flemish. I can find online versions of the Bible in Dutch
but not in Flemish.

And I couldn't figure out what verse they meant either as Psalms 102 or 10:2 or 1:02 didn't seem to fit in any of the English, German or Dutch versions that I could find.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will ask a Belgian friend of mine if he can read it. I really enjoy the blog (just found it). I was in Compostela some years ago (St. James is my patron) and really regret not buying a jet rosary while I was there. The one you show is beautiful. Is there any place that sells such a rosary? Fr. Jim

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The language is apparently old Dutch. It is, "My soul blesses the Lord who crowns you in (with) charity and mercy." It refers to Psalm 103. They numbered the psalms in different ways at different times. Fr. Jim

3:53 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

Question out of the blue (sort of, LOL), but I've seen an eleven decade rosary but I can't find any information about it. When I google it your blog comes up. Would you happen to know anything about it? Thank you.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Mary in Monmouth said...


In my St Anthony's Treasury I have prayers for the Five Wounds, but what would you do elsewhere on the beads.

Commence with Apostles Cread
Faith Hope and Charity
Hail Mary
Then the Magnificat
or psalm 102?/3?

would you say the Pater Noster on the five beads?

Also are there any special 'set 'prayers connected to this devotion in Latin or anything else? I know this is a Mediaeval devotion and the Five Wounds are represented in a great deal of Mediaeval ecclesiastical art in the UK.-especially on Easter Sepulchres etc. So are there any paschal devotions connected with it?

I am having one made, so would really like to know.

12:45 PM  

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