On the morning of the day before the Feast of the Assumption, the priests in all the churches in Siena consecrated extra Hosts in anticipation of the large crowds who would be receiving Communion the next day.
Then they all went over to the magnificent Duomo, the Cathedral, to plan the festivities of the following day, and take part in the Vigil Ceremony that night.
All went as anticipated.
The town was virtually abandoned, except for the large congregation at the Cathedral.
All the churches were empty. In the afternoon of the 14th, thieves stole into the Basilica of St. Francis, which is on the northern end of town.
They broke into the Tabernacle, not for the precious Body of Our Lord Jesus, but for the gold of the Ciborium which held His Body.
hey took everything with them, Hosts as well as Ciborium. No one was aware of the crime until the following morning when the priests of the Church were about to celebrate Mass for the feast.
Panic set in.
Proof of the crime was confirmed when someone brought in the top of the Ciborium which he said he had found in the street outside the church.
The entire town went about looking for the lost Hosts. The festivities for the day, so well prepared, were suspended. The Archbishop asked for public prayers for the well being of the Consecrated Hosts, and Their safe return.
We must remember here that they didn’t know for sure why the Consecrated Hosts were stolen. Was it for the gold of the Ciborium, or for a more diabolic purpose, to desecrate and commit blasphemy against Our Defenseless Saviour?
When the Archbishop’s representative arrived, and the priest from the Basilica of St. Francis arrived, they opened the poor box together to find a large amount of Hosts, some stuck in between cobwebs, (the poor box was only opened once a year) and some down in the bottom of the box.
They counted them to determine if any were missing. The priest from St. Francis told them the count was correct, 348 whole Hosts, and 6 halves. The priest had consecrated 351 Hosts on the 14th of August.
The fear of desecration may seem like overreacting to us, when, since the advent of Communion in the Hand, we find Consecrated Hosts on the floor of the church, outside the church on the ground, slipped in between the pages of missalettes and on and on.
After they found the Consecrated Hosts, they cleaned Them as carefully and thoroughly as possible. Then, the next day, in solemn procession, with a large assemblage of the town following, the Hosts were brought back to the Church of St. Francis, where They were venerated by the faithful.
There’s no explanation for sure why the Hosts were not distributed. The most obvious reason could be that, although They were cleaned as much as possible, They could still have been soiled from being in the Poor Box. That’s obvious, but not necessarily God’s reasoning. He doesn’t always use the obvious. Had they been distributed, they would have been gone, and the story would have been told by the local people for a few days, a week at the most, and then back to business as usual, which may not have included things of Our Lord.
Nine years later, another investigation took place, this time by the Archbishop of Siena.
He included prominent theologians of the time, and officials from the town, who were not part of the Church. They subjected the Hosts to a Microscopic Test. It was determined that the Hosts had not begun to crumble, or discolor, or deteriorate in any way. It was also verified at this time that these were indeed the same Hosts that had been examined in 1780, and the same Hosts that had been lost and found in 1730.
It was at this time that the Archbishop ordered that a quantity of UNCONSECRATED HOSTS be placed in an airtight container, hermetically sealed, to be locked up and kept in the Chancery office for ten years.
The Siena Miracle Hosts were kept in a Ciborium, not hermetically sealed in any way, just the way they had been for the prior 59 years.
At the end of the ten year period, the box with the unconsecrated hosts was opened in the presence of the Archbishop and various officials. They found that they were mostly discolored, disfigured and deteriorated. They again checked the Miraculous Hosts to find that They were in perfect condition.
In 1815, another test was made, again with microscopes, and with people tasting the Hosts. It was determined that They were still fresh. Again in 1850, the Bishop of Siena ordered a test. Again, it was determined that They were as fresh as the day They were baked. At this investigation, they also checked the unconsecrated hosts which had been put in the airtight box in 1789. There was little left of these hosts. They had turned into powder for the most part. Those which had not deteriorated completely were only small pieces, which had turned into an Ochre color.
At that time, it was explained that unleavened bread, of which the Hosts were baked, if kept under normal conditions, in a ciborium, as were the Miraculous Hosts, would deteriorate in five years at the very most. That’s saying a lot. On the other hand, unleavened bread which was put in any kind of airtight container, such as those unconsecrated hosts submitted to the test of time, would last much longer. In this instance, the reverse occurred. The Miraculous Hosts, which have never been in any kind of hermetically sealed container, had at that time lasted 120 years, while the unconsecrated hosts, placed in the airtight container, deteriorated and disintegrated.
In 1914, we were into the age of modern science, where miracles were not allowed to stand on the intervention of the Almighty. They had to stand the test of logic and science. Outside scientists, as well as people from within the Church, conducted an investigation. I’m sure that a lot of the thinking was “Well, we’ll finally put this hoax to rest. After all, this is the 20th Century. We’re not in the Dark Ages anymore.”
An Acid and Starch Test was performed with fragments. They also tested Them under the scrutiny of microscopes, and tasted Them. It was determined by all that They had a normal amount of Starch, of roughly sifted wheat flour, and that They were well enough preserved to eat, after 184 years.
In 1922, a large assemblage of Bishops and Church officials from all over the area, investigated the Miraculous Hosts again. It was after the results had been the same as in previous investigations that the Bishops declared officially that they could find no natural reason for the Hosts having remained incorrupt for such a long period of time (192 years at this date). They officially claimed it as a supernatural gift from God.
In 1950, the Siena Miraculous Hosts were transferred from the ciborium They had been housed in, to a beautiful, elaborate reliquary. The Bishops and Church Officials then solemnly processed with the Hosts through the town, and kept Them on display for a time. This may have been a mistake, for it brought the Hosts, or the Reliquary, at any rate, to the attention of yet another thief. On August 5th, 1951, nine days before the Anniversary of the Miraculous Theft, the tabernacle was broken into again. This time the thief was very obvious in what he wanted. He took the gold Reliquary, and threw the Miraculous Hosts on the floor of the chapel. Less than a year later, a new reliquary was made for the Miraculous Hosts, which is where They rest to this day.
On September 14, 1980, Pope John Paul II came to Siena to venerate the Eucharistic Miracle in honor of the 250th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Hosts.
The Siena Miracle of the Eucharist is not on display all the time. In the Church of St. Francis, it has a Summer and a Winter Chapel. To the left of the main altar is the Summer Residence of Our Lord. It is a magnificent chapel, in which the Miraculous Hosts are in an elaborate tabernacle. Every Friday evening at 6 pm, there is a Rosary, followed by a Mass, followed by a Benediction with the Miraculous Hosts. To the right of the main altar, in a smaller chapel, is the winter residence of the King of the World. Because the church is so cold in winter, and the priests cannot stay there all the time, the chapel is locked except for the Mass in the Morning. When the Tabernacle door is open, the Hosts gleam like the King He is, on a Golden Throne.
Fr. Antonio Giannini has been the custodian of the Eucharistic Miracle for many years. He has devoted much of his life to the study of various Eucharistic Miracles throughout the world. “Why”, he asks us, “do you think the Eucharistic Miracle of Siena is of such great importance, possibly THE MOST IMPORTANT OF THE EUCHARISTIC MIRACLES?” Without minimizing the importance of any of the other Eucharistic Miracles that have come down through the centuries, the Eucharistic Miracle of Siena is AN ONGOING MIRACLE. The Lord has kept this miracle in his consciousness for 250 years. If He were to take it out of His mind for even an instant, it would deteriorate, and disappear. Fr. Giannini mentions other Eucharistic Miracles that have occurred in the history of the Church, that remained for a time, and then disintegrated. They are no less miracles, but they were meant for a time. When the Lord felt they were no longer needed, they disappeared.
According to Fr. Giannini, this miracle is of great importance to the Faithful, so much so that the Lord kept it in existence in the ORIGINAL SPECIES OF UNLEAVENED BREAD. All the other Eucharistic Miracles which we will write about in this book changed from bread and wine into another form. In Lanciano, the bread and wine turned into Flesh and Blood. In Bolsena, the Host bled, and the blood stained corporal has been left for us. In Cascia, the Host bled, and became two blood stained pages of a book. But in Siena, the Incorrupt Hosts are still Hosts. We believe that as long as the Hosts are incorrupt, the Real Presence of Jesus remains in them. Siena is a miracle in which The Lord made the decision to stay in this form, in this place, without any break, for over 250 years.