Treasures of the Church- Eucharistic Miracles

The Eucharistic Miracle of siena, Italy
from 1730 - up to present...

By 1730, Siena was no longer the city of great devotion during which St. Catherine and St. Bernadine lived. Rather, it was a place like many others in Europe where religious feast days were occasions for entertainment. The meaning and religious value of the feasts had been lost. All would gather in the Plaza of the Camp to celebrate a day off from work.

By the middle of the 16th century, Europe was very involved in the Renaissance. People were interested in art and culture. Although many would go to Church, they were not necessarily moved by a profound love for the Eucharist or the Virgin Mary. This is why in 1730 Siena needed a miracle, a grace from God for its spiritual renewal. In reality, it was not only Italy but all of Europe that needed a change that would make everyone drop to their knees and place their attention on the power of God. In these situations, our Lord does not abandon his people.

Story of the Miracle
Siena actually has two Eucharistic miracles, but the most famous one is told here. The second one is found in the basilica of Casia.

On the morning of the day before the feast of the Assumption, the priests of all the churches of Siena consecrated additional hosts in anticipation of the great number of people who would be receiving Communion the following day. All went to the splendid Duomo, the Cathedral, to plan the festivities of the following day and to take part in the Ceremony of the Vigil that night. Since all the priests were in the Cathedral, the churches were empty.

On the night of August 14th, robbers entered the Basilica of Saint Francis which is located at the extreme northern part of the city. They opened the tabernacle to steal the golden ciborium that contained the consecrated hosts. They took everything- the hosts and the ciborium.

No one found out about the crime until the following morning, when the priests of the church went to celebrate the Mass of the Assumption. Everyone panicked. The proof of the crime was confirmed when someone brought the cover of the ciborium that he had found on the street in front of the church. The entire town began to look for the lost hosts. All the celebrations were suspended.

The Archbishop asked for prayers in public so that the consecrated hosts may appear in a good state. Up until that time no one knew of the reason why the hosts had been stolen. Could it be because of the gold material of the ciborium or for a more diabolic purpose, to profane and commit sacrileges against our Savior? Once again, our Lord permits Himself to be vulnerable before the evil of men and to totally place Himself in our hands.

Three days later, on August 17th, meanwhile a man was praying inside the church of Saint Mary in Provenzano, which is very near the Basilica of Saint Francis, he noticed that there was something white inside the box for the poor. This white thing had a round shape and seemed to light up. Immediately he went to communicate this to the pastor of that church who then informed the Archbishop who in turn sent one of his assistants to that church.

When the Archbishop’s representative and a priest of the Basilica of Saint Francis arrived at the church of Saint Mary, they opened the box for the poor and they found a great number of hosts. Some had been tangled with the spider webs inside the box and others fell to the bottom. They counted them to see if any one host had been lost. The pastor of the church of Saint Francis said that it was the right quantity, 348 whole hosts and 6 halves. The priest had consecrated 351 hosts on August 14th.

How long were those three days during which the hosts were lost! Those three days seemed like the days between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

A sigh of relief and praise to the Lord resonated for two reasons. One reason was that the consecrated hosts had been found and the other reason is that not one was missing; that was what everyone had feared- if the robbers were interested in the ciborium, then they would throw away the consecrated hosts anywhere, even the garbage.

They gathered all of the hosts and cleaned them with utmost care. They took them to the church of Saint Francis in a procession accompanied by a great number of people. Once they arrived in the church, they exposed them for veneration and reparation. The story of the burglary dispersed throughout the entire country and many began to make pilgrimages to the church of Saint Francis to pray before the consecrated hosts. This happened before they knew that a miracle would occur through them.

The hosts were not distributed amongst the faithful. There is no certain explanation of why the hosts were not distributed. One of the reasons might be that since a great multitude of people from Siena and neighboring towns would come to venerate the hosts then the priests were obliged not to consume them. Another possibility is that although the hosts were carefully cleaned, they were still left somewhat dirty. In cases like these, in which the consecrated hosts were in one way or another contaminated, it is not a requirement to consume them. Generally, they are reserved until they deteriorate on their own. When this occurs, the Real Presence disappears from them. It is possible that the Franciscans wanted to leave the hosts to be venerated by the pilgrims until they deteriorated on their own, and that would have been the end of everything. However, this never occurred.

Before the amazement of the priests, the hosts would not deteriorate, but rather they maintained fresh and with a very pleasant scent. As time passed, the Franciscans were convinced that they were witnessing a continuous miracle of preservation. Bishops and cardinals were allowed to receive some of the hosts. They reported that their taste was fresh and pleasant.

Fifty years after the hosts were recovered, an official investigation was conducted to prove the authenticity of the miracle. The superior general of the Franciscan Order, Father Carlo Vipera, examined the hosts on April 14th of 1780, consuming one and proving that it was fresh and incorrupt. Since hosts had been distributed in previous years, the superior ordered that the 230 hosts that remained should be placed in a new ciborium and he prohibited any further distribution of the hosts.

Nine years later, in 1789, a more detailed investigation was made by the Archbishop of Siena. This investigation included prominent theologians and other dignitaries. After examining the hosts under a microscope, the committee declared that they were perfectly intact and that they did not show any sign of decomposition or a change of color. Three Franciscans who had been present in the previous investigations were questioned by the Archbishop, under oath. In this investigation it was also reasserted that the hosts examined were the same that had been stolen in 1730 and found three days later.

It was in this investigation that the Archbishop ordered that a quantity of unconsecrated hosts be placed inside a container hermetically sealed and kept under lock for ten years in the office of the Chancellery. The miraculous hosts were kept in a ciborium, not hermetically sealed, but rather in the manner they had been reserved for the last 59 years.

At the end of the ten year time period, the container of unconsecrated hosts was opened before the presence of the archbishop and various officials. They found that they were discolored, disfigured, and deteriorated. So they checked the miraculous hosts and found that they were in perfect condition. In 1850, a similar test was made, having the same results. The unconsecrated hosts were reduced to dust and the miraculous hosts maintained their freshness.

Other investigations were made in different occasions. The most important one was in the year 1914 and took place by petition of Pope Pius X. For this investigation a panel of distinguished researchers was selected, including scientists and professors from Siena and Pisa, as well as theologians and ecclesiastic officials.

Tests with acid and starch were made on one of the fragments and they indicated a normal level of both. From a microscopic test it was concluded that the hosts had been made from flour of churned wheat which was perfectly preserved.

The commission explained that if unleavened bread was prepared under clean conditions and was stored in a container where air did not enter and that was sterilized, then it could be preserved for a long time. Unleavened bread prepared in a normal manner, exposed to air, and the activity of the microorganisms may remain intact for a few years.

It was concluded that the stolen hosts were prepared without any scientific precautions and kept under ordinary conditions that should have caused them to deteriorate rapidly. The hosts were so perfectly preserved that after 184 years they could still have been consumed.

Siro Grimaldi, a chemistry professor of the University of Siena and director of the municipal laboratory, and renowned for his many distinguished positions in the area of chemistry, was the head of the investigation committee of the year 1914. He gave many conferences on the miraculous nature of the hosts and he even wrote a book.

In 1922, another investigation took place before the presence of the bishops of Siena, Montepulciano, Folignno, and Grosseto. The results were the same as the previous ones. There was no natural explanation that would explain why the hosts would have remained without corrupting for so long a period (192 years). They proclaimed it a miracle.
In 1950, the miraculous hosts were removed from its previous ciborium and placed in a more elaborate and costly one that caught the attention of another robber. This one, during the night of the fifth of August of 1951, committed another sacrilige against the hosts, but this time only the ciborium was stolen, leaving the hosts in a corner of the tabernacle. After counting 133 hosts, the archbishop stored them sealed inside a silver ciborium. They were photgraphed and placed in an elaborate reliquary in which they are still found to this day.

The bishops and officials of the Church solemnly went in procession with the hosts through the city, and had them exposed for some time.

The miraculous hosts are publicly exposed on various occasions, but especially on the 17th of each month which commemorates the day that they were found in 1730. On the feast of Corpus Christi, the sacred hosts are taken through a triumphant procession throught the streets of Siena.

Amongst the many who had visited the miraculous hosts to adore the Lord, one can name Saint John Bosco and Pope John XXIII who on May 29th of 1954 signed the books of visitors. Although they could not physically visit the Eucharistic miracle, Popes Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII made official declarations of great interest and admiration.

On September 14th of 1980, Pope John Paul II went to Siena to venerate the Eucharistic Miracle in honor of the 250th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Hosts.

With a unanimous voice, the faithful, priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes have been marvelled by and venerated the hosts, acknowledging that in them one finds a permanent miracle, complete and perfect, that has lasted for 250 years. Through this miracle the hosts have remained complete and with a natural brightness, and with a color characteristic of unleavened bread. Since they are in a perfect state of conservation, the Catholic Church assures us that although they were consecrated in 1730, they continue to truly be the Body and Blood fo Christ.

Every Friday at night, at 6pm, a Rosary is prayed followed by the celebration of the Holy Mass, followed by Benediction with the Miraculous Hosts. Father Antonio Giannini was the guardian of this Eucharistic miracle for many years. We met him in the pilgrimage made in 1993. His love for the Eucharist was very profound and he dedicated a great part of his life to study the various Eucharistic miracles around the world. For Father Giannini, this miracle of Siena has great meaning and importance for the faithful, since the Lord has maintained it preserved and in the original form of unleavened bread.

Could it be that the Lord wants to show us the importance of maintaining fidelity to a pure faith, without mixing ourselves with anything that can dilute it or minimize it?



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