Sanctuary of Santa Cristina

The complex of the sanctuary of Santa Cristina appears as a set of three churches side by side with styles belonging to different centuries: one Romanesque-medieval, one Renaissance and one baroque.
According to a tradition, the complex was begun thanks to the devotion of Matilde di Canossa and Pope Gregory VII to Santa Cristina, and the Pope consecrated the church in 1078.
The church on the right is a simple parallelepiped-shaped local stone facade that ends with a sail-shaped bell tower with a bell. The building dates back to the eleventh century and the simple facade is enriched by a lunette above the entrance door with beautiful white and blue glazed ceramic work with images of the saint.
The second building is a true masterpiece of Renaissance art and was commissioned by cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici who had it built between 1493 and 1495 by the sculptors Francesco and Benedetto Buglioni of Florence.
The church has three naves and on some parts of the walls can be recognized frescoes of the fourteenth to sixteenth century while behind the main altar there is a polyptych by Sano di Pietro.
This church has a high bell tower with levels of mullioned windows dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries.
The third building dates back to 1639 and is called the Chapel of the Miracle as it houses the relics of the miracle of the Eucharist, from which the feast of Corpus Domini was born. This chapel is a circular baroque jewel with an altar and two side chapels. On the altar is the reliquary containing the stones with the sign of Christ’s blood from the miracle of 1263.
The complex then ends with the Chapel of Santa Lucia and the catacombs of Santa Cristina, an early Paleochristian necropolis with over 1600 graves dating back to the III-V century AD. It is no coincidence that the catacombs start from this point and the graves are concentrated near that of Santa Cristina, in fact in the past it was believed that the day of the universal judgment was better to be found near the body of a saint who surely would have been brought to paradise by Jesus.
Some of the marbles that closed the catacombs were then used as part of the floor in the construction of the basilica where some slabs with epigraphs can be recognized.
In the final cavern from which you descend to the level of the catacombs, there is a large terracotta icon and the statue of Santa Cristina lying on a sepulchre that were created by the artist Benedetto Buglioni. This cavern was once entirely frescoed and you can see some traces of the drawings.
In this area is the earliest sacred complex and the altar on which the miracle occurred.
In the altar you can also see the stone with the footprints of Santa Cristina as a girl. The story goes that little Cristina was thrown into the lake during the persecutions with a stone around her neck and that miraculously this stone floated and brought it back to shore. These are the first footsteps that Santa Cristina left out of the lake when she put her feet on the muddy banks.
The miracle altar is an artistic masterpiece of the 8th century and is known as the “altar of the 4 columns” because it is all enclosed within a canopy. Here the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena took place in 1263 when a priest who was celebrating Mass saw the host bleed during his consecration as the Body of Christ. These relics are meanwhile preserved in the Cathedral of Orvieto.
All the area around the complex has seen many changes and over the centuries hospitals and centres were created to welcome the many pilgrims who came to visit. Also because Bolsena is located along the Via Francigena, the road that leads to Rome to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, it was one of the most important streets of the Middle Ages.

Guides:
Guide of Bolsena

Guide of Bolsena

The village of Bolsena is located on a hill of the Volsinii mountains on the shores of the homonymous lake […]