The feast of Corpus Christi, or the Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated today around the world.
The origin of this special feast was due to a crisis of faith by a German priest in 1263. Pope Urban IV was in residence at Orvieto, Italy during this time.
The priest was en route to Rome and stopped at the Italian city of Bolsena, where he celebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Christina. As he spoke the words of the Consecration, blood began to seep from the consecrated Host, and trickle over his hands and onto the altar and the corporal. Shocked, the priest immediately traveled to nearby Orvieto, where Pope Urban listened to his story.
The pope asked that the Host and the blood stained cloth be brought to him in the cathedral. Pope Urban and a number of cardinals and Church dignitaries greeted the procession and had the relics enshrined in the Cathedral at Orvieto. The stained corporal bearing the spots of blood is still displayed there, in a golden reliquary in the Chapel of the Corporal.
Pope Urban and a number of cardinals and Church dignitaries greeted the procession and had the relics enshrined in the Cathedral at Orvieto.
Pope Urban, deeply affected by this miracle, commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Proper for a Mass and an Office honoring the Holy Eucharist as the Body of Christ. The hymns which St. Thomas wrote included the traditional hymns still widely used in Benediction: the Pange Lingua (with its concluding verses, the Tantum Ergo), the Panis Angelicus, and O Salutaris Hostia.
One year after the miracle, in August of 1264, Pope Urban IV introduced Aquinas’ composition and issued a papal bull instituting the feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ).