Flower of the Five Wounds

Photo of a Passion Flower, taken by Piers Northam in the Chiltern Hills.


The Passion Flower

Yesterday the church began Passiontide which is the week leading up to Holy Week, the second half of Passiontide. One of the signs of this season is a beautiful flower known as the Passion Flower.

Tradition has it that when Christian missionaries arrived in South America in the 16th century they found a flower which symbolised the death of Christ. They named it  la flor de las cinco llagas— the flower of the five wounds.  Later it came to be known as the Passion Flower.

A lot of symbolism was read into its design.

The five petals and five sepals spoke to the missionaries of the five wounds of Christ. Taken together, they represent the ten disciples who did not deny Christ (excluding Judas and Peter); the Radial filaments of the flower, known as the corona, represent the Crown of Thorns. The three stigmas at the centre of the flower symbolise the nails used in the crucifixion. The spiraled tendrils curling from the flower are symbols of the whip used to scourge Christ.

The fragrance of the flower helped to recall the spices used to embalm the body of Christ. Finally, the globular egg-size fruit of the plant was seen as a symbol of the world that Christ came to save through his suffering.

Using this plant, which grows wild in South America, the missionaries were able to teach the natives about Christ’s Passion in much the same way as St .Patrick taught the Irish about God by using the shamrock.

photo | Piers Northam

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