I have to admit that I’m not one to follow miracles. There’s several I have heard of and believe in, but I’ve never really taken the time to investigate many of them. In a recent conversation on Fisheaters forums, the miracle of Lanciano was brought up in a thread about the Sacred Heart. I had heard of it before and seen images, but didn’t really know much about it. It is claimed that in the 8th century during Holy Mass, the Host and wine were miraculously transformed into live Flesh and live Blood. Today, I thought I would share some of the information I have dug up surrounding this astounding miracle.
The miracle begins with a small town in East Italy called Lanciano. It was claimed to be founded “Anxanon” by the mythical companion of Aeneas, Solima. The town is situated near the Adriatic Sea, and in antiquity stretched over three hills. By the second century B.C., Anxanon became a municipality of Rome and became famous for its trade fairs. The heart of the town is the Piazza Plebiscito which is the historic center, home to the Cathedral, the Church of the Miracle, the City Hall, and other notable sites on the square.
There, in the 8th century, a Basilian priest was offering Mass at the monastery of St. Longinus. He was experiencing a crisis of faith, doubting the reality of the Eucharist, so God granted him a very unusual and great grace: when he got to the words of consecration, the transubstatiation that took place was more than one in which the accidents of bread and wine remained; in this instance, the accidents themselves transformed into biological flesh and blood. That is, the bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Christ in a way that was evident to the physical eyes. The bread became a mass of bloody tissue, and the wine separated into five distinct globules, as if clotted (and perhaps to memorialize the Five Wounds). In 1631, an anonymous writer put to paper what had been handed down to him by tradition (and, perhaps, no longer extant documents):
“He [the Basilian priest] was so confused and terrified by such a Stupendous Miracle that he stood utterly dumbfounded as if by ecstasy for a long period; but eventually, his fear gave way to the spiritual happiness that filled his soul, and he turned his joyful yet tearful face to those around him and cried out: “O fortunate friends to whom the Blessed Lord has deigned to reveal himself in this Most Holy Sacrament and to make himself visible before your eyes and to dispel my own unbelief.
Come, brothers, and gaze at our God drawn near us. Behold the Flesh and Blood of our most beloved Christ”.
At these words, all people hurried avidly to the altar with deep devotion, and there upon witnessing the Miracle, they began to cry out with tears for divine mercy.
As the news of such a rare and peculiar Miracle spread through the city, who could describe the acts of piety that the great and the small performed as they hurried to see the Wonder with their own eyes: some cried out with devout voice for divine mercy; some beat their breasts and confessed their guilt and sins; others with subdued voices and sighs admitted their unworthiness to gaze upon such a precious treasure; and others still, in a state of rapture and reverent silence admired, marvelled, praised, and thanked the all-good God who deigned to place before our mortal senses His immortal and incomprehensible Majesty.https://www.fisheaters.com/lanciano.html
The identity of the monk has never been preserved, which is unsurprising considering the amount of time which has passed since the Miracle. This also means that the specifics of the date have been lost to history, with only the testimony of oral tradition to give us a rough time frame of the 8th century. Given the tumultuous circumstances of the time period, the Basilian monks, a group of Greek monks, fled to Italy to escape the persecution of the Byzantine Emperor Leo III and the Iconoclasts. In light of this, it is suspected that the Miracle may have occurred between 730 and 750 A.D.
Given the pressures of the persecution of the Church and Her cult of sacred images, any possible documentation of the Miracle from this time period has been lost or destroyed in the centuries which followed. As noted in the quote above, the first accurate written account of the Miracle did not appear until the 17th century. We can conclude from Church Tradition that the incident was investigated by the local Bishop at the time of the Miracle, and was reviewed once more in 1574 by Archbishop Antonio Gaspar Rodriguez. Following the Archbishop’s investigation, the Miracle was canonically recognized as worthy of belief.
Scientific Analysis of the Miraculous Host and Blood
In November 1970, with the consent of Rome, Lanciano’s Archbishop Monsignor Perantoni and the Provincial Minister of the Conventual of Abruzzi, the Franciscans of Lanciano turned over the relics to scientific examination. Since the relics of the Miraculous Host and Blood granules date back 12 centuries, the analysis of these species would prove challenging.
Dr. Edward Linoli, head of the hospital in Arezzo and professor of anatomy, histology, chemistry, and clinical microscopy lead the analysis of the sacred relics. He was assisted by Professor Ruggero Bertelli of the University of Siena. Samples were taken from the relics on November 18th, 1970 and the analysis was performed.
The analysis was complete and was detailed by Dr. Linoli on March 4th, 1971. The findings of these Miraculous relics were as follows:
1. The “Flesh” is truly miraculous flesh constituted by striated muscle tissue of the myocardium.
2. The “Holy Blood” is real blood: chromatographic analysis is demonstrated with absolute certainty…
3. The immunological study shows that the Flesh and Blood are certainly of Human nature, and the Immuno-hematological proof affirm objectively…that both belong to the blood-type AB. This…blood group can indicate the membership of the Flesh and Blood to the same person, however with the possibility of belonging to different individuals of the same blood group.
4. The proteins in the blood are usually shared, with the same percentage of serum protein pattern of normal fresh blood.
5. Histological section showed no sign of infiltrations of salts or substances used in ancient conservative order of mummification. Certainly, the preservation of proteins and minerals observed in the flesh and blood of Lanciano is neither impossible nor exceptional: the repeated analysis allowed to find proteins in Egyptian mummies of 5,000 for 4 years But it should be noted that the case of a mummified body in line with procedures known, is very different from that of a fragment,of infarction left in its natural state for centuries, exposed to the atmospheric, physical and biochemistry agents.http://www.miracoloeucaristico.eu/index.html
The publishing of Dr. Linoli’s findings greatly interested the scientific world at the time, drawing attention from the Board of Governors of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1973. WHO carried out their own verification of Dr. Linoli’s findings over the course of 15 months with 500 examinations performed. Their findings not only corroborated those of Dr. Linoli, but also had their own additional findings.
It was found that the condition of the mummified tissue was not scientifically explainable. Their preservation over the course of 12 centuries with exposure to air, light, parasites, plant or animal pests and an absence of any preservatives, antiseptics, and mummification only confirm the miraculous nature of these relics. The final conclusion of the research declared that there was no possible scientific explanation for the condition of these sacred species.
Scientific Images of the Miraculous Relics
Based upon the testimony of Church Tradition and the findings of rigorous scientific analysis of these Holy relics, leave none other than strong evidence for a true Miracle. The state that these relics have been preserved over 12 centuries, in vessels which do not block out air, light, or parasites leaves me to conclude that the Holy species enshrined in Lanciano are of a miraculous nature.
What I find even more interesting is that the Miraculous Host was found to have myocardial tissue, i.e. heart tissue. Which ties into the Eucharistic end of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Where the Host becomes not only the Flesh of Our Lord and Savior, but the flesh of His Heart. Allowing us poor, sinful creatures to partake in unifying our own hearts with His Divine Heart. Miracles like that of Lanciano only serve to affirm the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. As well as kindle further devotion to the Adorable Heart of Our Redeemer.