Monday, June 04, 2007

The Church of St. Cristina in Bolsena

The Altar at S. Cristina where the Miracle of Bolsena took place

Catacombs of the 4th and 5th centuries underneath S. Cristina

Infiorata for Corpus Christi at Bolsena 2006

The town of Bolsena on the shores of Lake Bolsena in Lazio has a particular devotion to the Eucharist and the feast of Corpus Christi.

In 1263 a Bohemian priest, Peter of Prague, troubled by doubts about the doctrine of transubstantiation, started out on a pilgrimage to Rome. On his way he celebrated mass at the Church of St Cristina in Bolsena. During the consecration the Eucharist began, miraculously, to bleed. Each time he wiped the blood away with a cloth a cross of blood would reappear on the Host, a miracle that swept away the priest's doubts.

The drops of blood fell on the marble.

Both the marble and the corporal were kept at the Church of St Cristina until they were moved to the Cathedral at Orvieto.

In August 1264, Pope Urban IV by means of a papal bull instituted the feast of Corpus Christi.

When the new feast was added to the Church calendar in 1264, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the liturgy for it.

The liturgy included the sequence "Laude Sion", the vesper hymn "Pange Lingua" (concluding with the "Tantum Ergo"), the matins hymn "Sacis Solemnis" (concluding with "Panis Angelicus") and the lauds hymn "Verbum Supernum Prodiens" (concluding with another Benediction song, "O Salutaris Hostia").

Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;-
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.

(The fourth stanza of the "Pange Lingua")

For the Pange Lingua, (Sing My Tongue) see:


  1. Thank you for highlighting my hometown of Bolsena in Idle Speculations. I always thought the Corpus Christi miracle happened on the altar in the chapel adjacent to St Christina's altar. This is where her feet are embedded on the rock that supposedly brought her back up from drowning in the lake. (But that's another story!....)I guess in the 1200's the main church did not exist in its present size, and the small altar by the cript and catacombs must have been in use then. As a little girl I had blonde hair and I was part of every procession in Bolsena that required a "little angel" to escort the Saint and the Host. Fond memories of over half a century ago and 5,000 miles away. Bolsena will always remain dear to my heart, thanks for the memories. Mara (Nee`Ferrata)Trumbo

  2. Dear Maria

    Thank you for your comments.

    It is interesting to note the correction as to where the miracle occurred.

    I have only visited Bolsena once. It is a beautiful town. I did think that if a miracle were to occur anywhere, that would be the place.

    You must miss it

    Kind regards