Not far from the Catholic shrine at Fatima and 45 miles north of Lisbon is Santarém, home of a number of notable churches. One of them, the Church of the Holy Miracle (Igreja do Santissimo Milagre) is home to a 13th-century eucharistic miracle. The shrine is among the most famous of its kind and is visited by thousands of pilgrims.
History of Santarem Eucharistic Miracle
The story of the miracle centers on an early-13th-century woman with an unfaithful husband. Desperate to regain his faithfulness and save her marrige, she consulted a sorceress. The sorceress said she would cure the husband's infidelity for the price of a consecrated host (Eucharistic wafer). After much deliberation, the woman decided to commit the sacrilege.
The next time she attended Mass at the 12th-century Church of St. Stephen, she took the consecrated wafer from her mouth, wrapped it in a veil and headed quickly for the door. But before she had taken more than a few steps, the host began to bleed. It bled so much that concerned parishioners thought she had cut her hand and attempted to help, but she ran out of the church.
Back at home, she threw the bloody host in a trunk in her bedroom. Her husband did not come home until late, as usual. In the middle of the night, they were both awoken by a mysterious light emanating from the trunk. The woman confessed to her husband what she had done and they both knelt in repentance before the miracle. The next morning, the couple told the parish priest what had happened. The priest placed the miraculous host in a wax container and returned it to the Church of St. Stephen. Word spread quickly, and the townspeople hurried to the church to see the miracle.
The next time the priest opened the tabernacle that contained the miraculous host, another miracle occurred! The wax container was found broken into pieces, and the host was enclosed in a crystal pyx. This pyx was placed in a silver monstrance, where it can be seen today.
After an investigation, the Catholic Church approved the recognition of the miracle. The Church of St. Stephen was renamed the Church of the Holy Miracle, and it is one of Portugal's most-visited pilgrimage sites. St. Francis Xavier visited the Church of the Holy Miracle before setting off for missionary work in India.
The church was rebuilt in the 16th century.
What to See at Santarem Eucharistic Miracle
The main attraction of the Church of the Holy Miracle is, of course, the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem. The host is enshrined in its miraculous crystal pyx in a silver monstrance and placed on display atop a tabernacle. Other notable features of the church are four paintings that depict the miracle and 16th-century glazed tiles.
There is a new museum at the rear of the altar in the church and English-language booklets on sale that give a full history of the eucharistic miracle. Near the church is the home of the woman who experienced the eucharistic miracle, and it is open to visitors.
Santarem is located 45 miles north of Lisbon and just a few miles south of Fatima. Most pilgrims to Santarem stay the night in Fatima and make a day trip to Santarem. It is easiest to get to if you have rented a car, but it is also accessible by train or bus.
If driving from Lisbon, take the A1 north to Santarem (exit #6). From Coimbra or Fatima (north), take A1 south to Santarem (exit #6). As in Fatima, taking a bus is more efficient and economical than a train. The Santarem train station is three miles from the city center, whereas the bus station is only a 10-minute walk from the shrine.
Walking from the bus station, go right on Av. do Brasil and walk three or four blocks to the big intersection. Take R. Dr. T. Guedes, which runs past a post office for three blocks (you will pass the tourist office on your left). At Capelo e Ivens, turn right and walk for three or four blocks until it becomes R. Miguel Bombarda. Continue straight for another few blocks; the church will be on the left.
Quick Facts on Santarem Eucharistic Miracle
|Names:||Church of the Holy Miracle · Igreja do Santissimo Milagre · Santarem Eucharistic Miracle|
|Dates:||12th C; rebuilt 16th C|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||39.233350° N, 8.681661° W|
|Address:||R. Miguel Bombarda|
|Phone:||0432 99 30|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Santarem Eucharistic Miracle|
- Kevin J. Wright, Catholic Shrines of Western Europe
- Milagre Church - Camara Municipal de Santarem
- Camara Muncipal de Santarem (English)
Map of Santarem Eucharistic Miracle
Below is a location map and aerial view of Santarem Eucharistic Miracle. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.