The Amsterdam Miracle

By Claire Faulks

Miracle chestOf all the oddities in this mad city, this is perhaps the oddest. In the Amsterdam Historical Museum you can view a certain wooden chest which has had a somewhat miraculous history.

The story goes like this; in 1345 a priest was called to administer the last rites to a dying man. The man was given the host, but later had to be sick. The maid threw the vomit on to the fire, and here’s where the magic begins. . . The host didn’t burn! The maid was able to retrieve it, unharmed, from the flames. The house was immediately declared a miracle site and a chapel was built on it. After that burnt down in 1452, an even larger church was built to replace it.

Pilgrims came from all over Europe to pay homage to the sacred site. Medieval churches might even set a pilgrimage to Amsterdam as a form of penance; a lenient alternative to banishment. Can you imagine being sent to Amsterdam today, if you did something wrong?

But the bizarre story doesn’t end there. For more than 200 years, processions were held in the city, proclaiming the Miracle of the Host. A wooden chest, supposedly housing the piece of regurgitated bread, was carried through the streets, along with banners depicting the scene of the miracle. Miracle Processions continued until 1578, when they were officially banned by the Protestants. But even up to the late 19 th century, silent processions were sometimes held in protest.

The history of the chest continues as well. After the hype of the miracle died down, it was transferred to the city orphanage and stored in the attic. Legend has it that sick orphans who went upstairs and sat on the chest were often cured of their illnesses. This is the same chest featured in the Amsterdam Historical Museum. You can spend an entire day wandering around this fantastic museum, losing yourself in the history, culture and oddities of the extraordinary city. And when no-one’s looking, you may like to sneak a quick sit on the magic chest and cure your tired feet!