Case Report

Reality or Fiction of the “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist?

by Irene Virgolini[1]*, Bettina Zelger2, Bernhard Zelger3, Lukas Kenner4

1Department of Nuclear Medicine, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

2Pathology, Neuropathology and Molecular Pathology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

3Dermatopathology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

4Department of Experimental Pathology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria

*Corresponding author: Irene Virgolini, Department of Nuclear Medicine, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

Received Date: 24 April 2023

Accepted Date: 01 May 2023

Published Date: 05 May 2023

Citation: Virgolini I, Zelger B, Zelger B, Kenner L (2023) Reality or Fiction of the “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist? Ann Case Report. 8: 1289.

Citation: Virgolini I, Zelger B, Zelger B, Lass-Florl C, Kenner L (2023) Reality or Fiction of the “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist? Ann Case Report. 8: 1289.


We investigated the possible case of a “bleeding host” found at the Franciscan Church of Schwarz, Tyrol, in 2016. Five years after initial discovery of the “bleeding host” by the Franciscan friars, we discovered bacterial and fungal contamination of the host (wafer), but no solid proof of mammalian tissue was evidenced by histopathology in 2021. Unfortunately, subsequent DNA-analysis failed due to limited material made available by the friars who put the remainder of the “bleeding host” into a monstrance placed in the tabernacle at the high altar of the church. In the very same part of the province Tyrol, Austria, in Fiecht, a similar case of a “bleeding Eucharistic Miracle” was already Catholic Church-approved in 1310 - and this one is still venerated by pilgrams coming from around the world.

Keywords: Eucharist, Eucharistic Miracle, Histopathology, Tyrol, Austria


Recently, Pope Francis has beatified Carlo Acutis (1991- 2006) [1] from the Diocese of Milan, Italy, who died because of acute promyelocytic leukemia at the age of 15 years [2]. The beatification took place at the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy, on the 10th of October 2020, the town of Saint Francis of Assisi [3]. Who is one of the most well-known Saints of the Catholic Church. As did his beloved Saint Francis, the Blessed Carlo Acutis was most excited about the Holy Eucharist. Carlo Acutis at his youth especially was interested in the Church-approved Eucharistic Miracles that took place throughout the ages in various countries of the world creating a virtual plate form on Eucharistic Miracles [4]. Carlo Acutis called the Holy Eucharist “My Highway to Heaven - the more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven” [5] which reflects basically Saint John Paul II’s teaching [6]. “Highway to Heaven”? Hence, is there really a man behind the physical appearances of bread and wine when substantially transformed by a clerical rite? Most Christian churches believe that Christ is really made manifest in the Eucharist by citing the rite and deem this as a “Holy Mystery”, a “Eucharistic Miracle” by itself, or the “Mystery of Faith” as in the Catholic Church [7]. Practically, the institution of the Eucharist happened at the Last Supper and since then the Church has celebrated, this event “until He comes again” (1 Cor 11-24). Catholic Church-approved Eucharistic Miracles represent an appreciation of the “Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity”, in the Holy Eucharist [8]. In the celebration of the Eucharist, by means of the Eucharistic Prayer, the actual substance of the bread and wine are changed substantially into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and this substantial change is called “transubstantiation”, a philosophical terminology that defines the presence of Jesus for the Roman Catholic Church instituted at the Council of Trent 1551 [8] which is widely not accepted in its essence by non-Catholic Christian denominations. However, the core reality in Saint Thomas Aquinas teaching is the substantial change and not its visual appearances, which are still bread and wine after consecration by a priest [9]. Above this, however, there seem to exist “extraordinary” Eucharistic Miracles in which bread and wine are altered (“transubstantiated”) into the accidents of body and blood, and which seem to be rather evidenced for believers than unbelievers in order to build up and strengthen the faith, - according to Saint Thomas Aquinas “extraordinary Eucharistic Miracles”. Verification of such “extraordinary Eucharistic Miracles” depends on special commissions investigating whether such private revelations are worthy of belief [10]. In our secularized world, about 75 percent of the Catholic Faith people do not believe in the “Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist” according to a recent citation by Bishop Robert Baron, though the Eucharist presents the inner core of the Church [11]. Eucharistic Miracles have been reported in various Christian churches and such miracles consist of scientifically unexplainable phenomena. Most commonly, reports exist on hosts that were “visibly bleeding” such as the one in Fiecht, Tyrol, Austria, in 1310 [12], in Bolsena, Italy, in 1263 [13] and more recently in Buenos Aires, Argentina [14] Only a few cases report that hosts were transformed into human flesh such as in the 8th century in Lanciano, Italy [15]. Other examples include hosts surviving when had being been thrown into fire [16], hosts preserved extremely long such as for hundreds of years as it happened with the Hosts of Siena [17], hosts levitating such as described for a host in Amsterdam [18] or hosts sustaining faithful people for decades (such as the Brazilian Servant of God Floripes Dornellas de Jesus [19] Marthe Robin from Portugal [20] or Teresa Neumann, Germany [21]). Other phenomena include that believers receive the Holy Eucharist from heavenly Angels (Saint Faustina from Cracow, Poland [22] or Blessed Lucia from Fatima, Portugal [23]), or that consecrated hosts saved from war and persecutors (Saint Clare from Assisi [24]). Following numerous Eucharistic Miracles, including the bleeding Eucharist of Bolsena in (probably) 1263 [13] the Feast of the Holy Sacrament (i.e. Fiest “Corpus Christi”) was promoted to the Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264 [25] on the basis of extensive theological and philosophical work presented by Saint Thomas Aquinas, only then instituted later by the Council of Trient [8], and presented to the universal Church as the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist, the very essence of Christianity. At the province of Tyrol, Austria, Fiecht, Austria, a Eucharistic miracle was observed in 1310 [12]. During a Eucharistic celebration at the monastery church, a priest doubting the “Real Presence of Jesus” in the consecrated elements experienced that the wine changed into blood, began to boil and overflow out of the chalice. The phenomenon was witnessed by numerous of people including the abbot of the monastery and the monks. Unable to drink all the blood, the remainder of the blood was placed in a vessel in the main alter` s tabernacle. After 170 years, in 1480, the blood was “still fresh as flowing from a wound” according to the chronicler of those days and the adoration of the “Precious Blood” was encouraged, as the miracle was declared authentic by the Catholic Church. The relic of this “Precious Blood” is still preserved and venerated in the church of the monastery at Fiecht, Tyrol, Austria. Here we investigated the case of a possible new “extraordinary Eucharistic Miracle” in the province of Tyrol, Schwaz, Austria, near Fiecht, which took place in 2016, which most likely is composed of bacterial and fungal contamination.

Case Report

At the Franciscan Church in Schwaz, Tyrol, three monks give witness to a case of “bleeding” of a host, which was found in the church (affidavits in the Supplements 1-3). In summary, a host was found on the ground under the gallery of the Franciscan church by a Holy Mass-visiting woman on Saturday, April 16, 2016. She handled the host over to one of the monks, and, as usual, the host was then put for being dissolved into a so-called “vasculum”, that is a tiny glass jar, which was placed into the tabernacle at the high altar next to the consecrated hosts. It was not clear if the host under discussion was a consecrated host or not. The monks mentioned that it was not a “bread host” which they are using for the Eucharistic celebration but a type “oblate host”. Fourteen days later on May 1, 2016, one of the monks serving at the altar, wanted to throw the dissolved host behind the altar, which is the usual praxis (also) with consecrated hosts once they are dissolved. The three monks witness that the host had become partly red, looking like a “bleeding host”. The colour of the host had then turned partly into “brown” over the last five years when we scientists were involved in 2020 in order to investigate the essence of this “bleeding” host. First inspections done by a local medical practitioner in 2016 had stimulated believe in the supernatural transformation of the host into “blood” among the monks. According to the Fathers, involved permission of doing scientific investigation with the host was obtained by the Superior of the Austrian Franciscan Order, Fr. Dr. Fritz Wenigwieser, Salzburg. After a first visit to the monastery to view the “bleeding host” by IV in March 2020, CLF & IV on September 15, 2020 together took the first sterile probe for bacterial and other microorganism investigation. Additional probes were taken for pathohistological examination and DNA analyses by BZ in February and May 10, 2021. For genetic analysis and a second opinion, material was investigated at the University of Vienna by LK in 2021. The remainding material of the host was finally put into a monstrance by the friars in May 2021. No further detailed genetic analysis could be performed with the limited material of the host made available by the monks.

Methods and Results Visual Presentation of the Host

Over the years, several images were taken repeatedly by the Franciscan friars, some also by the authors. Here are examples of the macroscopic appearance of the host over the years 2016-2021. Macroscopically, the host was incorporated in brown-jelly based clumps. Macroscopy showed a soft cohesive conglomerate of different colours from greyish to black to brown to dark red areas. No clearly diagnostic tissue on gross examination could be identified. No remnants of a consecrated wafer were detectable (Figure 1).