When Jesus identified Himself as “the bread of life,” He meant that He could be allegorically “eaten,” “metabolized” so as to dwell inside the body of the faithful. In fact, this led the eucharistic bread to be venerated and, occasionally and more or less intentionally, desecrated. Many late medieval exempla, edifying tales intended for use in sermons, tell of the miraculous powers of the Host but also of its “misuse” by both clerics and laypeople, who hoped to exploit the divine essence of the consecrated wafer for their own purposes. This article offers a parallel between such beliefs and practices and an ancient, traditional concept—shared by many peoples in the past—according to which it was possible to absorb someone's attributes by eating part of their body. From this viewpoint, the Christian theophagy proves somewhat original but also extremely contradictory.

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