Lent in Tudor Times

PlateWe’ve already learned the delicious (but incredibly fattening) Tudor recipe for Tarte owt of lente, the calorie-packed pie whose aim was to use up as many of the ingredients which couldn’t be eaten during lent as possible. But what exactly happened once this pie was eaten? What happened during lent in Tudor times?

Lent, as most people already know, is the time between Shrove Tuesday (pancake day!) and Easter, where many people still give up things like chocolate, fast food or drinking. This is to mark the 40 days and 40 nights which Christians believe Jesus spent in the desert avoiding temptation from the devil.

File_000Things were pretty similar in Tudor times. At this stage, the beginning of the season of Lent was marked by Shrovetide which began on the seventh Sunday before easter. Events such as celebratory banquets and jousts were held to mark the occasion, the banquets serving up vast amounts of the cheese, meat and eggs which would be forbidden during the fast.

The next day was referred to as Collup Monday, when many Tudor people enjoyed their last chance to eat a collup – a piece of roast or fried meat. Finally, on Shrove Tuesday, more jousts, masques and similar celebrations were held. Some Tudors marked the season by “threshing the cock”, that is, throwing things at a cockerel which had been tied up. The person to kill the cock would win a prize.

In the church during lent, cloths were used to cover the lectern and altar, and the chancel was hidden by a Lent veil. These actions were to symbolise the idea that the path to salvation was hidden.

An important aspect of Lent in Tudor times, which is not generally followed today, was that sex was completely forbidden. Lent was considered to be a period of abstention from all of life’s pleasures. This rule even applied to the King and Queen – nobody was exempt from the rules of Lent.


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