On the way to Bolsena, our first stop was
the Basilica of San Flaviano in Montefiascone.It is an interesting example of Romanesque architecture built about 1000 AD. There are actually two churches, one on top of the other, with the upper church serving as sort of a woman's gallery. Today the upper church has a new pipe organ and is set up for concerts.
The lower church has many interesting 15th century frescoes, including this one of the slaughter of the innocents behind a contemporary statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
Birdwalk: Est! Est! Est!
The tomb of Bishop Johan Fugger is in a chapel of the Basilica of San Flavino. As the story goes, the Bishop was traveling from Germany to Rome around 1100 AD for the coronation of Henry V. The Bishop sent his quartermaster ahead to scout out inns that had good food and to sample the wine. He would write “Est!” (Latin for "This is it!") on the walls of the inns with the best wine. He was so impressed with Montefiascone that he wrote Est!Est!!Est!!! on the wall of an inn there. Needless to say, the Bishop agreed, and after the coronation in Rome, he returned to Montefiascone, spending the rest of his life drinking the fine wines of the city. For centuries, on the anniversary of the Bishop's death, people of the city have poured a barrel of wine on his tomb stone in celebration of the notoriety he brought to their wine. (We enjoyed Est! Es! Est! wine with our dinner on a couple of occasions during the trip. It is wonderful!)
The view of Lake Bolsena as we left Montefiascone.We arrived in the town of Bolsena in time to enjoy the sunset over the water before having dinner... fresh fish from the lake.
On Sunday we made our way to the Basilica of Santa Cristina. It includes catacombs where the 3rd century saint was buried, a couple of chapels, and the main basilica dating from the 11th century.
A della Robbia terracotta is above the entrance to the basilica.
This 16th century terracotta sculpture, attributed to Benedetto Buglioni, is above the grave of Santa Cristina.
The parish priest saying Mass before the
15th century altarpiece by Sano di Pietro of Siena.
Birdwalk: The Miracle at Bolsena
Like many Italian towns, Bolsena has its own miracle story. In 1263 a priest from Bohemia was leading a pilgrimage to Rome and stopped in Bolsena to say Mass over the tomb of Santa Cristina. He personally had doubts about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and he was surprised when blood began to drip from the bread he was consecrating. The stained corporal (small altar cloth) was taken to Pope Urban IV who was residing in nearby Orvieto. The following year the Pope declared the feast of Corpus Christi, which to this day is celebrated by many towns with a path of flower petals for a procession. The holy corporal is kept in the Cathedral of Orvieto. Stones with miraculous stains can be seen in the Basilica of Santa Cristina. (Pope Julius II had Raphael depict this miracle in a fresco in the papal apartment at the Vatican.)