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St Francis Siena

The Eucharistic Miracle of St Francis in Siena

Talking about Siena is easy: the whole city should be visited and known in depth for everything that makes it famous in the world and one of the most beautiful cities of art. But also for “The Eucharistic Miracle of St Francis“, or “The Mystery of the Hosts of St Francis in Siena“, which is 292 years old. It was the night of 14 August 1730, and in churches all over the city, people were preparing to celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, on the day of Ferragosto. And in every church in Siena, the priests were intent on consecrating the hosts for the faithful who intended to take communion the next day.

Once this very important operation was over, everyone gathered in the city’s cathedral for the vigil but left their churches unattended. A group of thieves decided to take advantage of the occasion to break into the Basilica of St Francis to steal the golden pyx, the cup with the veil containing the consecrated hosts. The theft was discovered the next day by the priests when a passer-by found the pyx abandoned: there was panic in the city because in an instant the rumor spread that someone had stolen the body of Christ.

The whole of Siena began a vigil of prayers to find the hosts, and three days after the theft, a man praying in the church of Santa Maria in Provenzano, very close to the Basilica of San Francesco, noticed that there was something white in a box intended for donations to the poor. The Archbishop was immediately informed, the box was opened and the 351 consecrated hosts were found, all those that had been stolen.

Thousands of faithful flocked to the Basilica of San Francesco to give thanks and to celebrate the discovery of the hosts, but they were not used because the Franciscans wanted the pilgrims to adore them until they deteriorated: when they deteriorate, the real presence of Christ disappears. However, the hosts remained intact and with a pleasant smell. People began to consider them miraculous and more and more pilgrims came to pray before them. A few of them were distributed on special occasions.

Today, about 220 remain, and they are said to be in the same state as they were on the day they were consecrated. They have been examined at various stages, and physically they retain all the characteristics of a freshly made host. In 1914 there was the most rigorous examination of this miracle at the behest of Pope St. Pius X. “The Sacred Particles were found to be in a perfect state of consistency, shiny, white, fragrant and intact“. It was also established that the stolen hosts had been prepared without scientific precautions and stored in ordinary conditions, which under normal circumstances should have caused them to deteriorate rapidly. This is why it is called the “Eucharistic miracle of St Francis

Photo by Francesco Labita on Unsplash