LANCIANO, Italy — It's not the fishing in nearby Pescara, nor is it the picturesque Adriatic coastline.

No, what brings 1 million people a year to the remote and sleepy Italian town of Lanciano, Italy, is the Eucharist.

In the eighth century, so the story goes, a priest was saying Mass here when he doubted Christ's true presence in the Eucharist. Immediately following the consecration, the Host was visibly changed into flesh and the contents of the chalice to blood. The miraculous flesh and blood have been preserved here ever since as a visible testimony to the Real Presence.

And, ever since, Lanciano has been a place of pilgrimage.

More recently, it's been a place of 20th-century science, also, as researchers weigh in on the miracle. Their conclusions, in 1971 and 1980: “The flesh is real flesh, and the blood is real blood,” explained Father Luigi, one of the Franciscan caretakers of the shrine, who doesn't use a last name.

What the scientists discovered was that both the flesh and the blood were human, and were of the same blood type (AB). They also discovered that the flesh was from the heart, and that there was no explanation for the relics remaining intact without preservatives for 1,200 years.

The reason for the miracle is simple, according to Father Luigi, “It's an extraordinary sign of the True Presence,” he said. And even today, Father Luigi says there are still miracles in Lanciano. There are many “miracles of conversion to the faith,” he explained.

— Andrew Walther and Josh Mercer