In 1345, Amsterdam was a tiny fishing village consisting of four streets and a few alleys lined up along the main canal. There were small modest fishermen’s huts, a church, and a monastery. The monastery was the largest building in the city. The Eucharistic Miracle given to this tiny village on March 13, 1345, was the beginning of the growth for which Amsterdam is now famous. In fact, on the 600th anniversary of the miracle, March 13, 1945, the Dutch Catholics attributed all the growth and progress of their city to the Eu¬charistic Miracle which we will now present.
The Eucharistic miracle occurred in a house on Kalverstreet where a fisherman named Ysbrant Dommer on his deathbed called for a priest to come to his home to give him the last rites of the Church and Holy Communion. After having heard the man’s confession, the priest blessed him with the oils of Extreme Unction, and gave him Communion.
The priest had no sooner left than the sick man began coughing violently. His wife ran over to him in an effort to help him, but the husband, gagging and choking beyond control, vomited the contents of his stomach, including the Host, still intact. The wife reacted instinctively. She swept up the Host and threw It into the fireplace. She soon realized her grave mistake, but the fire was raging, and she was not about to put her hands into it for fear of burning herself. That night she slept fitfully, tossing and turning. She was afraid she had committed a terrible sin and had nightmares about the Sacred Host that she had thrown into the fire.
The following morning, as soon as she got out of bed, she went over to the fireplace. The fire was not extinguished yet, and the coals were still quite hot. She stoked the coals, looking for the Eucharist. To her amazement she suddenly saw the Host sitting atop a burning ember. It was not burned at all. It had not even turned color. The Host was fresh and brilliant, lying among the coals. She immediately snatched the Host from the fire, and carefully wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in a chest for safekeeping.
She then called the priest who had been to her house the previous night and told him the story. The priest then placed the Host into a pyx and washed the cloth in which it had been wrapped. He then carried the Host to the parish church of St. Nicholas. The priest thought it best not to tell anyone about the incident, so as not to stir up gossip involving the woman or her husband. He took the Host, wrapped in the cloth, and returned It to the church, where he placed It in the tabernacle.
The following morning, the priest found the pyx empty to his amazement, but the Host was soon discovered by the same woman when she opened the chest to remove some linens. She was stunned and confused as she knew the priest had taken It away the day before. Had she committed such a terrible sin, that the Lord brought back the proof to punish her with the sight of It? She ran to the Church, and explained what had happened to the priest. Again the priest placed the Eucharist into a pyx and returned it to the church. Then, after yet another disappearance and discovery, the priest contacted other members of the clergy for consultation. All agreed that the occurrences were a direct proof of God’s intercession, and apparently a sign that the miracle should be openly honored. Jesus wanted to use this miracle to awaken His sleeping people. The Miraculous Host was a light which was to shine all over Europe.
The priest told his fellow friars about the miracle, and the story of which soon spread about the town and the surrounding countryside. When the priest formed a procession to go to the fisherman’s house for the Sacred Host, a huge crowd followed him and his fellow priests. They carried the Sa¬cred Host back to the church of St. Nicholas affording Our Lord the honor He deserved for giving such a rich gift to these humble people.
Another wonderful element to the story is that the fisherman who had been dying, the one whom the priest brought the Eucharist on that first night, didn’t die. To the contrary, he recovered, thanks be to God. However, when word of the miracle reached the ears of the townspeople, and those from other villages, they all went to the fisherman’s house to see where the miracle had taken place. It soon became sort of a shrine, and soon afterwards, a Chapel.
Official inquiries were made by the civil magistrate and also the city council, and upon investigation all were satisfied with the truthfulness of the witnesses. They affirmed the occurrence as fact and also endorsed the miracle in official City documents. The Church authorities, too, headed by the Bishop of Utrecht, held an extended inquiry before permitting the clergy to spread information about the event.
In a Pastoral letter, the Bishop officially declared that an authentic miracle had occurred in the little town of Amsterdam. In the same pastoral letter, he authorized veneration of the Eucharistic Miracle of the Host. The little house of the fisherman was soon converted into a Chapel, called Nieuwe Zijds, or Holy Place and the Miraculous Host was placed upon the main altar, for the adoration of the people. The fireplace of the fisherman’s hut was kept intact, and became a permanent part of the new shrine.
Miracle upon Miracle –The second miracle of 1452
A second miracle took place 100 years later. Amsterdam had grown considerably in the century since the first miracle had taken place. On May 24, 1452 the entire city of Amsterdam was engulfed in fire. Most of the buildings were destroyed by the blaze. When the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (the former fisherman’s hut) caught fire, some of the parishioners made an at¬tempt to save the Miraculous Host from destruction by the flames. They tried to force open the tabernacle. The Host had been placed in a beautiful monstrance, which was inside the tabernacle. The heat of the Church was becoming unbearable. The workers worked feverishly, but to no avail. The heat of the fire had made it impossible to get the door open. As the roof of the Chapel began to cave in, the men ran out of the Church to safety, their mission a failure.
The entire Church collapsed and burned to the ground, including the tabernacle. Upon seeing this, there was a great sadness among the faithful of the city, especially those who had tried in vain to rescue the Eucharistic Miracle. The next day, they sifted through the ashes of the Church, hoping against hope, that something remained of their precious Host. Their grief turned to joy as soon they spotted the Monstrance, completely unscathed, there among the ashes of the Church. Even the silk veil which covered the Monstrance had been saved from the fire. So, once again the Lord saved the same Host from fire in the same house in Amsterdam.
Soon afterwards, a new chapel was built, more elaborate and more beautiful than the previous one. The fame of the Eucharistic Miracle of Amsterdam, now recognized as a twofold miracle, spread beyond the Netherlands to all of Europe. The Hapsburg Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Maxmillian, went to Amsterdam in pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Miracle. He prayed for a healing at the shrine, which was granted to him because of his faith. He showed his thanksgiving by donating beautiful gifts to the Chapel of the miracle. Amsterdam and the Eucharistic Miracle became a major place of pilgrimages and processions.
In 1665 the city council authorized Father Jan Van der Mey to convert one of the houses of the former convent of the Beghine into a chapel. After completion, the precious monstrance was transferred, but unfortunately was shortly afterwards taken by unknown thieves. Even today there is perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in memory of the miracle. The only objects that remain from the Eucharistic miracle are the case that contained the Sacred Host (pictured in the photo to the left), the documents that describe the miracle, and some paintings housed in the Historical Museum of Amsterdam. Every year there is a silent procession (Stille Omgang) in honor of the miracle on the eve of Palm Sunday.