As Easter dawned, the inhabitants of the small village of Blanot, near Autun in southern France, looked forward to the first Mass of Easter Sunday. It had been a particularly hard winter and it was still very cold, but the church was full of the faithful celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord.
Celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus
It was customary at that time for the altar rail, which separated the sanctuary from the rest of the church, to have a cloth placed on it at the time of the Eucharist.
This was done by Thomas Caillot and Guyot Besson and the people then placed their hands beneath the linen as they waited for the priest, Hughes de la Baume, to give them Communion.
One of the last recipients was Jacquette d’Effour, but she did not manage to get the entire Host in her mouth and a fragment broke off, falling on the cloth which covered her hands.
The priest did not notice anything at first
The priest had not noticed this but Caillot had and, as la Baume was about to return the Ciborium to the Tabernacle, Calliot made the priest aware of what had happened. But, when he looked at the cloth, what he saw was not the broken Host but a spot of blood, exactly the same size as the piece of broken Host.
What’s more, the blood had not actually penetrated the cloth, it appeared to be sitting on top of the material, more like a mound of blood than a stain.
At the end of the Mass, the cloth was taken into the Sanctuary and the priest began washing it. It was claimed that he did this several times but the ‘stain’ would not wash out, in fact, it grew larger and the water in the bowl he used became blood-red in colour. The priest then cut the area which had become stained from the larger cloth.
What happened next?
Exactly what happened next is not clear. One story relates that the miraculous cloth was placed in the Monstrance and shown to the people who remained in the church with the priest telling them, “Good people, you can believe it. This is truly the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding my having giving it a good washing and scrubbing, there was no way of separating it from the cloth.” Another version states that the cloth was put in the Monstrance and placed in the Tabernacle straight away.
Strangely, although word of the ‘miracle’ had spread rapidly around the area, it was more than a fortnight before Jean Jarossier, Bishop of Autun, went to Blanot, accompanied by a retinue of priests and an Apostolic Notary who were to help him in determining the authenticity of the happenings there.
The Hosts were carefully preserved
Father de la Baume introduced the eye witnesses before the committee and they described in detail the events of that Sunday morning 1331. At the end of the inquiry, the committee unanimously agreed that “the Lord has visited the people of Blanot in a special way, through a Eucharistic Miracle.”
The Bishop sent the details to Pope John XXII who then bestowed indulgences on those who celebrated Mass in the church of Blanot. For some reason, which has never been explained, the Hosts that remained in the Ciborium after that Easter Mass were never used but carefully preserved. In 1706, three hundred and seventy-five years later, they were carried around the area of Blanot in a silver casket in a five hour procession to celebrate the anniversary of the miracle.
When the then Bishop of Autun decided, some years later, that the cloth should be examined, it was found to be perfectly preserved, the threads had not disintegrated over four hundred years and the colour of the Blood was “rich red.”
Hundreds of years later…
Until the start of the French Revolution, regular processions and commemorative observances were held, but during the Revolution, the church itself was the target of a group intent on desecrating any church they came across.
Just after Christmas of 1793, they burst into the building and took the bloodstained cloth, by this time encased in a crystal tube, from the Tabernacle. Fortunately, they decided it was of “little value” though they caused damage to the fabric of the builing.
To avoid any possible future damage, the relic was entrusted to Dominique Cortet for safe keeping. Unfortunately the tube was cracked at both ends whilst under his protection, one end accidentally damaged whilst it was hidden in a drawer and the damage to the other end caused accidentallycby the village priest at the time.
After the Revolution, the relic was returned to the church once more. Later a new tube was designed for it and this was placed in an Ostensorium, on the base of which can be seen four enamelled pictures telling the story of the Sacred Pall (cloth) of the Blanot Miracle.
Also in the church is a plaque detailing, in French, the events of Easter 1331, and on Easter Monday the relic is solemnly exposed in the church, much to the joy of the people.
– This article by Margaret Smith was published in Ireland’s Own, issue no. 5,337, April 20, 2012. For subscription details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org [external link]