In the year 1263 Fr Peter of Prague stopped at Bolsena to celebrate Mass while on his way to Rome. He is known to have been a good priest but not one without doubt in Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist.
After speaking the words of consecration, to his great surprise, blood began to seep from the consecrated host and trickle over his hands and onto the altar and the corporal.
He did not know what to do. At first he attempted to hide the blood but then decided to interrupt the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, where Pope Urban IV was then residing. Fr Peter is said to have told the Pope, “But Holy Father, bread does not bleed!”
After listening to his account, the Pope sent emissaries to investigate. After all the facts were ascertained he ordered the Bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto the host and the linen cloth with the blood stains. With archbishops, cardinals and other Church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and had the relics placed in the cathedral.
The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.
It is said that Pope Urban IV was prompted by this miracle to commission St. Thomas Aquinas (who also resided for a time in Orvieto) to compose the Proper for a Mass and an Office honoring the Holy Eucharist as the Body of Christ.
One year after the miracle Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi. St Thomas’ hymn is still sung today on this great feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ.
If you ever happen to be in Italy on the Feast of Corpus Christi it is well worth the trip to attend the Mass and Eucharistic procession with the corporeal through the quaint streets of this ancient town, one of the most beautiful I have ever been to. People still hang elaborate colored banners from their windows and the road is covered with flowers, all in honor of the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.