The Host in the late Middle Ages: superstitions, faith, miracles and magic

Miniature of the Institution of the Eucharist - British Library Egerton 1070   f. 113The Host in the late Middle Ages: superstitions, faith, miracles and magic

By Andrea Maraschi

Published Online (2015)

Introduction: The problem of taking and metabolizing Christ had been a major concern in Medieval times. Many intellectuals dedicated their energies to this thorny topic: from Pascasius Radbert’s literal interpretation in the first half of the ninth century, to the “more symbolic and spiritualistic line of thinking” of Ratramnus; from the position of the heretic Berengar of Tours in the eleventh century, to that of Lanfranc of Bec, who was seemingly the first to apply the Aristotelian categories of substance and accident to the Eucharist, concluding that the presence of Christ in the bread and the wine was physical and involved a change of substance – a transubstantiation: a formula that would not be used until the twelfth century, but that would be validated and corroborated at the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, and later at the Council of Trent. In the meantime, in 1264, Pope Urban IV had added the feast of Corpus Christi to the liturgical calendar (even though it would spread throughout Europe only in the fourteenth century), aimed at celebrating and “calling attention to” the sacrament of the Eucharist.

But let’s analyse more in detail what lies behind the concept of theophagy.

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See also When banquets were dangerous for the soul by Andrea Maraschi