« Bolsec, Jérôme Hermès Bolsena, Miracle of Bolzano, Bernhard »

Bolsena, Miracle of

BOLSENA, MIRACLE OF: A miracle which, according to an account strongly affirmed in local tradition, occurred in 1264 in the town of Bolsena (the ancient Vulsinius; 7 m. s.w. of Orvieto) in Umbria, Italy. The details of the story vary in different accounts, but the substance of the occurrence is as follows: A priest, who had been long troubled with doubts as to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, accidentally let fall upon the linen corporal, while saying mass, some drops from the consecrated chalice. While endeavoring to conceal this mishap, he was amazed to perceive that the stain was no longer as of wine but resembled fresh blood, and had not the irregular trace of a few spilled drops, but the form and contour of the consecrated boat or wafer. The miracle produced a great sensation throughout the surrounding country. Pope Urban IV, at that time staying in Orvieto with the pontifical court, caused the stained corporal to be brought to the city, where it has ever since been carefully preserved. This miracle was the determining reason which caused Urban to make general the celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi. The composition of the liturgical office of the feast was entrusted to Thomas Aquinas, but in it there is no allusion to the miracle.

The miracle of Bolsena has been immortalized by the genius of Raffael, who made it the subject of one of his frescoes in the second sala of the Vatican. The painting idealizes the scene and introduces, not Urban IV but Julius II, under whose pontificate the fresco was executed, as present at the mass. The present cathedral church of Orvieto was built on the site of an earlier structure to commemorate the miracle, and much of the elaborate decoration refers to it. The corporal is preserved in a silver shrine enriched with many figures in relief and subjects in translucent colored enamels. The shrine was begun by Ugolino Veri of Sienna in 1338 and is one of the most important specimens of medieval silversmith work in Italy. The feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated with extraordinary solemnity each year in Orvieto and the corporal is carried in procession through the town together with the Blessed Sacrament.

James F. Driscoll.

Bibliography: Dictionnaire des prophéties et des miracles, vol. i, in Migne's Encyclopédie théologique, vol. xxiv, Paris, 1852.

« Bolsec, Jérôme Hermès Bolsena, Miracle of Bolzano, Bernhard »
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