The Catholic Travel Guide
Orvieto, Italy: The Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena and the Cathedral of Orvieto
The Northwestern part of Italy is home to quite a few towns and cities that offer glimpses of Catholic history without the huge crowds of Rome or Florence. One of these is Orvieto, where a Eucharistic Miracle is preserved in the Cathedral of Orvieto. Many of these miracles seem to occur to those who have lost faith in the transubstantiation (wherein the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ).
Such was the case in 1263 when a visiting priest stopped in Bolsena to celebrate Mass at the Saint Christina's Church in Bolsena. Having doubts that the Eucharist was really the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest was shocked when the host began to bleed right after the prayer of consecration. Unable to hide this fact, he interrupted the Mass and went to nearby Orvieto where Pope Urban IV was in residence.
After a thorough fact-finding investigation the Pope ordered that the miraculous host and the linen altar cloth (Corporal) stained with blood be brought to Orvieto and placed on display. It still on display today for pilgrims to see, although there is an admission charge for the Cathedral as far as we know. We are not aware of any official website for the Cathedral.
It should be noted that the Cathedral also has some of the most magnificent frescoes to be found anywhere. The San Brizio Chapel depicting visions of heaven and hell certainly rival those of the Sistine Chapel in our humble opinion. The Cathedral was originally planned as a residence for the Pope but as history unfolded the Papacy moved elsewhere and that helps explain why such a magnificent structure can be found in a town that historically has not had great significance.
Orvieto and Bolsena are only about 10 miles apart, so it is easy to combine both. Certainly viewing the Eucharistic Miracle in Orvieto is the number one priority of most pilgrims but many are also interested in visiting the Church of Saint Christina in Bolsena where the miracle actually took place.
Orvieto has several festivals throughout the year, but that of Corpus Christi is the most prominent. On that date the Corporal of Bolsena is paraded through the town. Check to see if the dates match up to your travel plans.
Orvieto is about 90 miles south of Florence and can be reached by train, car or some airlines as well. It is also close to Assisi, Siena and other popular Italian "Hill Towns".