A few days ago me and my wife Donatella had a dinner at the FCC with Fr. Gianni Criveller. Gianni had just returned from Italy where he had delivered several presentations of his researches on the Jesuits Matteo Ricci and Giuseppe Castiglione. Then our conversation veered on another PIME father, Giosuè Bonzi, originating from a small village near Bergamo in Northern Italy, San Giovanni Bianco.
Gianni told us that just before the 25th of March Giosuè had rushed back to his native village for a special occasion: the flowering of the Holy Thorn. Gianni joined him but that was too early to witness the miracle.
I asked Gianni more information about it, even if I remember vaguely of having read about it in Jacopo da Varagine’s Golden Legend, a Medieval text.
The next day, after doing some researches, I have found that there are many thorns spread around Italy, France and even Germany, known as thorns belonging to the crown which was put on Jesus Christ after his flogging.
But where such thorns came from?
According to legends, Jesus’s followers preserved the crown and it ended up in the year 320 in the hands of Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. She took back to Rome some of those relicts of the Passion, like the Cross, a nail, and only one thorn – possibly the one found in the diadem which was part of Monza’s Iron Crown and found on the mummified body of Holy Roman Emperor Otto III at Aachen – but she left in Jerusalem the complete Crown of thorns. It was then removed to Costantinople in 1063 where it remained until 1237 when King Baudovine and other crusaders moved it to Paris and placed it in the Sainte Chapelle. It remained there until the French Revolution, where everything was stupidly smashed or stolen., today they still have the crown but…without thorns.
It seems, anyway, that during the transportation to Paris, several people helped themselves with the holy relict detaching thorns from it.
The result is that there are several cities and villages around Europe where a thorn can be found, even if most of them are in Italy. Here is an highly incomplete list:
Pisa (Santa Maria della Spina), Rome (church of Santa Croce in Jerusalem; Palermo (Church of the Carmine Maggiore); Cremona; Pizzighettone; Padova; Vicenza; Rovigo; Voghera; Montechiaro d’Acqui; Sant’Elpidio al Mare; Petilia Policastro; Cortemilia; Andria; Pompei; Rosarno; Noto; Sciacca; Cassano Magnago and San Giovanni Bianco, this is the village of our Fr. Giosuè Bonzi.
Which is the mystery surrounding these thorns, apart from their origin? Well on a special day some of them bloom! In which day, you will now ask but let me explain.
It happens when the 25th of March – The day of Annunciation or ab incarnatione which did mark the beginning of the year in most states before the French Revolution – coincides with the day of the Passion, a Friday. This indeed has happened on 25 March 2016, Holy Friday, and that’s why Fr. Giosuè Bonzi went back to his native village. The previous time which it had happened was in 2005, eleven years before.
It begun at about 5 PM, just minutes before the celebration of the Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ and it seems that the thorn in San Giovanni Bianco changed colour with some white spots appearing on it, showing a kind of faint blooming. This year there was also a commission of scientists present to detect and register the strange phenomenon and they have indeed certified that something unesplicable had changed the structure of the thorn.