The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

You can meet miracles in Lanciano almost at every step. Just opposite the Basilica of  Madonna del Ponte is situated the church of Saint Francis which is best known as the Sanctuary of Eucharistic Miracle. Pilgrims from all the Christendom come here to observe first-hand the material evidences of the first Catholic Eucharistic miracle which took place here in the 8th century. Then there was a small church of Saint Legontian.

Saint Legontian had been none other than a Roman centurion who had hurt Jesus Christ with his spear when he was crucified. After the Crucifixion Legontian had come to believe in Christianity and moreover became a preacher and ended his life as a Christian martyr. Since Legontian was born in Anxanum the latter was renamed at the beginning of Common Era into Lanciano in his honour, namely in the honour of his lance!

In the 8th century one Basilian monk had great doubts about essential principles of Christianity and particularly about the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. During the Divine Liturgy, when he said the Words of Consecration: “This is my body. This is my blood”, with doubt in the soul, the priest saw the bread transforming into living flesh and the wine changing into live blood, which coagulated into five globules, irregular and different in shape and size. This number corresponds to the number of wounds Christ suffered on the cross: one in each hand and foot from the nails, and the wound from the centurion’s spear.

The document which is kept in Lanciano states: Frightened and confused by so great and so stupendous a miracle, he stood quite a while as if transported in a divine ecstasy; but finally, as fear yielded to the spiritual joy which filled his soul he turned to bystanders and  thus spoke to them: ”O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my unbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eyes. Come Brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us. Behold the Flesh and the Blood of our Most Beloved Christ”.

Since 1574, various ecclesiastical investigations have been conducted upon the miracle. The most detailed examination took place in 1970-1971 and partly in 1981 and was conducted by Odoardo Linoli, an eminent Professor of Anatomy and Pathological Histology and Chemistry and Clinical Microscopy. He was assisted by Prof. Ruggero Bertelli of the Siena University.

Odoardo Linoli had come to following conclusions:

  • The flesh is real flesh and the blood is real blood.
  • The flesh and the blood belong to human species.
  • The flesh consists of a muscular tissue of the heart.
  • In the flesh are present in section: the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium. The flesh is a heart complete in its essential structure.
  • The flesh and the blood have the same blood type, AB.
  • In the blood there were found proteins in the same normal proportions (percentage-wise) as are found in the sero-proteic make-up of the fresh normal blood.
  • In the blood there were also found minerals: chlorides, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium.
  • The preservation of the flesh and the blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon.

The flesh and blood can be still seen today. The flesh, which is the same size as the large Host used today in the Latin Church, is fibrous and light brown in colour, and becomes rose-coloured when lighted from the back. The blood consists of five coagulated globules and has an earthly colour resembling the yellow of ochre.

The church of  Saint Francis was built in 1258 over a pre-existing 7th century church. A tall belfry with arcades and two-arched windows was erected in the 15th century. The ornate baroque interior of the Sanctuary makes a striking contrast with the austere Franciscan façade. The walls and high vaults are richly decorated with splendid frescoes and stucco mouldings.

The high altar houses the relics of the Eucharistic Miracle. Since 1713 the flesh has been kept in an engraved silver tabernacle and the blood has been contained in an ornate rock crystal bowl.

Though  there were many people in the church they kept a peculiar and concentrated silence. All eyes and thoughts were fixed on the Eucharistic Miracle.

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