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Church of S. Cristina - the Altar of the Miracle

Church of S. Cristina - the Altar of the Miracle

Bolsena is an important summer holiday town. It is built on the north-western banks of the lake of the same name and, apart from tourism, derives its income from agriculture and fishing. Perhaps the most important religious festivity is the one that commemorates the Corpus Domini miracle of 1263. During a mass celebrated by the Bohemian priest Peter of Prague, a number of drops of blood fell from the elevated host and stained the linen altar cloth and the marble of the altar itself. Since 1693, the altar and the cloth have been kept in the Chapel of the Miracle in the Church of St Christine which was built by Pope Urban IV in the 11th century to celebrate the miracle. The Pope inaugurated the feast of Corpus Domini which is still held every 18th June when the town stages a large procession through the flower-strewn streets of the centre in celebration of the miracle and the Holy Eucharist itself. On the evening of 23 July, Bolsena celebrates its patron saint, the martyr Christine, with a display of living compositions depicting scenes from the martyrdom of the saint (the Mysteries of St Christine). On 2 July, thousands of tourists flock to the banks of the lake on the occasion of the Fishing Festival. Next to the religious house and the Chapel of the Miracle rises a hill underneath which lie catacombs created in the second or third century A.D. and used until the 5th century. Leaving the town by the Orvieto road, we pass by a boundary enclosing an area of 4 kilometres or so at Poggio Moscini. This perimeter marks an old Etruscan wall from the 4th century BC and inside there are a number of monuments well worth a visit. The castle-fortress of Monaldeschi, built by the Orvieto authorities in the 12-15th century, looks down on the centre of Bolsena. In the Middle Ages, this imposing castle that so dominates the town acted as a defensive outpost for the inland areas. The Piazza Monaldeschi has a Gothic-period temple dedicated to St Francis. Of particular interest is a crucifix of the Pastura school placed on the wall at the entrance to the temple.


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