About fifty miles Southwest of Zaragoza, Spain, in the region of Aragon, lies the picturesque city of Daroca. I have visited Daroca twice in my life because it is the place where my grandmother, Maria Gracia Pelayo, was born, and where she grew up during the Spanish Civil War.
It is a beautiful city surrounded by two and a half miles of medieval walls and rich with history. Some say it has been occupied since the third century B.C. when the Celtiberians lived in this part of Spain. During Roman times the Laminium Road, which connected Zaragoza and Valencia, passed through Daroca. The Moors took the city in 862, and they occupied it for nearly 300 years until the King of Aragon, Alfonso the Battler, took it back in 1120. Daroca is the home of a Eucharistic Miracle and it is the site of the first Eucharistic procession in Spain, and perhaps in the world.
The year was 1239. The Reconquest of Spain by the Christian kingdoms had been going on for 500 years, but the Moors still controlled Valencia. The Christian troops of Aragon (a kingdom in the northeast of Spain) had united in order to defend their land and recover what the Moors had taken. On Feb. 23 the armies of Daroca, Teruel, and Calatayud were about to take the castle of Chio, in Luchente, Spain, back from the Moors.
Before the army besieged the castle the Chaplain of the Christian army, Don Mateo Martinez (who was from Daroca) celebrated Mass, during which he consecrated six hosts for the six Captains of the army. While he was saying Mass, the Moorish army suddenly attacked – Don Martinez was forced to hide the consecrated hosts, wrapped in the corporals, in a rocky area nearby.
A fierce battle ensued, but the Christian army succeeded in fighting off the enemy. After the fighting died down the Captains asked Don Martinez if he would give them communion as an act of thanksgiving to God for their victory. When the priest went to the place where he had hidden the hosts he found them soaked in blood and stuck to the corporals. The army, seeing what had happened, rejoiced at the miracle and took it as a sign from Christ that they would be victorious. When the army returned to battle, Don Martinez lifted the corporal up on a pole, like a standard, and they recaptured the castle of Chio. They attributed their victory to the Eucharistic Miracle, kindly granted them by God.
When the fighting had ended there was some disagreement as to where the corporals should go; the six Captains were all from different regions of Spain, and each of them wanted the sacred corporals to go to their own city, to be honored in their Cathedral. They eventually decided to do a draw, and three times the city of Daroca was chosen to be the home of the Eucharistic Miracle, but two of the Captains were not in agreement. The main General proposed a compromise as a solution. They would put the corporals on the back of an Arab mule, which had been caught in battle (the mule had never tread on Spanish ground before the recent attack), and they would allow the mule to wander as it pleased, until it found a place to stop. Wherever the mule stopped would be the place chosen by God for the corporals to remain.
The date was Feb. 24, 1239 when the mule left the hill of Codol and began its journey, followed by soldiers and priests carrying lighted candles. The first road the mule took went towards Valencia, but it never entered the city. The mule continued along a creek that goes from Catarroja to Manizes, touching Segorbe, Jerica, and Teruel – but it did not enter any of these cities. The mule traveled more than 200 miles in twelve days before bending its knees and falling dead in front of the Church of San Marcos, in the city of Daroca.
There are many traditions and legends surrounding the mule's journey to Daroca. It is said that during the twelve-day journey many miraculous things occurred – angels were heard singing and playing music, demons left souls that had been possessed, and many sinners were converted. There is no documentation of these events, but they are local traditions. There is, however, documentation of the Eucharistic Miracle of Luchente, the pilgrimage of the mule, and the divine selection of Daroca as the city where the corporals would be honored.
A beautiful church was built to be the home of this special gift to Daroca called Santa Maria Colegiata. A reliquary was created in 1385, and it was expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries. Sculptures were placed in the Church that depicted the events that led to the miracle: the Battle of Luchente, Fr. Don Martinez lifting the corporal like a standard in battle, the mule's journey, and the arrival at Daroca.
In 1261, some people from Daroca went to Rome to inform Pope Urban IV about the Eucharistic Miracle of Daroca. Pope Urban IV was the pope who instituted the feast of Corpus Christi, and it is believed that he accepted the news of the Miracle of Daroca as a sign from God that this feast should be instituted. The date the mule arrived at Daroca was the seventh of March, which would later become the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, a great defender of the Eucharist. In the year of the miracle, 1239, Saint Thomas was 14 years old. After his death, in the middle of the fourteenth century, he was named the protector of the Eucharistic Miracle of Daroca.
The blood on the corporal has been analyzed and has been determined to be of human origin. The Miracle of Daroca was officially documented in the year 1340.
There is an old song that tells the story of the Miracle of Daroca that my grandmother used to sing as a little girl:
“Hail, hail, city of Daroca,
Always noble, brave and loyal,
Hail gentle pearl of Jilopa,
Relic of immortal pearl.
Today your name of Arab memory,
Pure reflection of the Spanish people,
Is lifted higher than the sun.
There were the six captains,
On their knees before God.
But soon became titans
Upon hearing the fierce Muslim.
Now resound, resound the trumpets,
The vibrant clarion breaking the air.
Now the vibrating weapons of battle
Often played noisily,
And the blood flooding the earth,
Is seen in the torrent rolling by.”
“Milagro Eucaristico de Daroca,” accessed June 21, 2012, http://www.corazones.org/lugares/espana/daroca/daroca_mila_eu.htm.