As yesterday was the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and this month dedicated to the Precious Blood writing something about the Holy Blood of Hailes seems appropriate. The Cistercian abbey at Hailes in Gloucestershire held this famous relic from 1270 until 1538.
A reconstruction drawing by Terry Ball
Image: English Heritage
There is an excellent illustrated account of the abbey and the pilgrimage from English Heritage/Historic England which can be seen at History of Hailes Abbey
The gift of the Holy Blood by Edmund of Cornwall was not the first attempt to establish such a devotion in England. A generation earlier in 1247 his uncle King Henry III had secured such a relic which he presented to Westminster Abbey, but which never attracted pilgrims. The niche for that relic can still be seen by the King’s tomb there. There is a brief account of it at Relic of the Holy Blood and there is now a book about it by Dr Nicholas Vincent.
The Holy Blood of Hailes was held within a crystal container. A 16th-century seal, used to grant admission to the abbey’s confraternity (or brotherhood), gives us the best impression of what the relic would have looked like. A priest is depicted holding an orb with a cross on top, which contained the Holy Blood of Hailes.