One of the most important places of worship in the city, the basilica of San Francesco has kept and has seen perpetuating for almost three hundred years what the Catholic Church defines as a permanent Eucharistic miracle, that is, a prodigious event still in progress involving the Eucharist.
On the evening of 14 August 1730 the friars minor convent of San Francesco placed a silver pyx with 351 consecrated particles inside the tabernacle of one of the chapels of the basilica – the one dedicated to Saint Anthony – and then, as every year, they closed the door of the church and went to the cathedral, together with the entire Sienese population, for the celebration of vespers on the eve of the feast of the Madonna Assunta. The next day, during the Eucharistic celebration, the terrible crime was discovered: the pyx with the particles had been stolen. The news of the sacrilegious gesture spread throughout the city and that day, which has always been characterized by great joy for the feast of the Assumption, was marked by such profound dismay that it was even decided not to run the prize on August 16.
A research conducted by the civil and religious authorities immediately began until, on 17 August, in the nearby collegiate church of Santa Maria in Provenzano, during mass a cleric accidentally caught a glimpse of something white inside the alms box; after referring it to the sacristan and archbishop Alessandro Zondadari and the vicar general rushed, the box was opened and the particles were found inside. Once examined and identified as the stolen ones, the city finally felt freed from a burden and all the people rushed to pay homage to them. A solemn procession was thus organized and in a riot of songs and prayers, accompanied by an immense crowd, the hosts were brought back to San Francesco, where the question of what to do with them arose. The friars did not want to destroy them because they had been consecrated and therefore contained the presence of Christ, but they could not even use them because they had been inside a dirty box for days, among money and dust. It was therefore decided to let nature take its course, waiting for them to deteriorate on their own. Almost three centuries have passed since then and those particles, against all chemical and biological laws, are still miraculously preserved intact.
Many have written about Siena and its harmonious beauty, in all times, and it is difficult to invent new words to describe its charm, especially if you are not poets. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1995.
José Saramago, a Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner, was in love with the city and dedicated words that describe it with brushstrokes of deep emotion and passion.
“And here is Siena, the beloved, the city where my heart is truly pleased”. “The three hills on which it is built make it a city where there are no two equal roads, all contrary to submit to any geometry”. “This wonderful color, the color of the body browned by the sun, but that is also the color of the crust of the corn bread, this wonderful color goes from the stones to the road and to the roofs, softens the sunlight and erases the anxieties and fears from the face”.
“There can be nothing more beautiful than this city”. Piazza del Campo “a square inclined and curved like a shell, which the builders did not want to pave and remained so, as if it were a lap”.
“I look at the old palaces of Siena, ancient houses where I wish I could live one day, with a window of my own, overlooking the clay-colored roofs, the green shutters of the windows, as in the attempt to decipher where this secret comes from that Siena murmurs and that I will continue to hear, although I do not understand it, until the end of life”.