Skip to comments.Naples hails annual miracle of liquefying blood (San Gennaro)
Posted on 09/19/2007 6:13:47 AM PDT by NYer
NAPLES, Italy (Reuters Life!) - Roman Catholics in Naples crowded the city's cathedral on Wednesday to witness the annual miracle of Saint Gennaro, who died in the 4th century but whose dried blood is said to turn liquid on his feast day.
In a ritual first recorded in 1389 -- more than 1,000 years after the martyrdom of Gennaro, also known in English as Saint Januarius -- a church official waved a white handkerchief to the crowds to signal that the dried blood had liquefied on schedule when brought close to relics which are said to be his body.
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, then showed the glass phial of blood to the congregation and paraded it to the crowds outside, where fireworks were lit in celebration.
"It is a prodigious sign that shows the Lord's closeness and predilection for our beloved and long-suffering city," he said.
The "miracle of the blood" is also celebrated in May to mark the relocation of the saint's mortal remains to Naples.
Legend has it that when Gennaro was beheaded by pagan Romans in 305 A.D., a Neapolitan woman soaked up his blood with a sponge and preserved it in a glass phial.
Sometimes it liquefies immediately, other times it takes hours. Locals pray to the saint to protect them from earthquakes or the volcano Vesuvius and believe that if the blood should fail to liquefy, something terrible will happen to Naples.
More scientifically minded sceptics say the "miracle" is due to chemicals present in the phial whose viscosity changes when it is stirred or moved.
I LOVE these miracle stories!!
Whether for you it is full of intense religious sentiment or whether you see it from the anthropological standpoint, the anniversary of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius) in Naples is one of those occasions that best capture the spirit of this wonderful city. An exciting mix of the sacred and the profane, in which the Catholic religion encounters legend and where mysticism overflows into magic.
The feast of San Gennaro, protector and patron saint of Naples is celebrated on 19 September. For the occasion, the faithful and the devotees of the saint crowd the church and await the miracle of the liquefaction. The blood of the martyr, gathered up after his decapitation and conserved in two ampoules, liquefies as soon as it is shown to the congregation and the event is welcomed with applause and prayers of thanks. Prompt liquefaction is seen by believers as a good omen for the city and its inhabitants, while a delay or failure to liquefy is interpreted as something negative. The feast extends over the whole week.
As well as on 19 September, the miracle is also repeated on 16 December and on the first Sunday of May. According to the legend, in 305, Ianuario (this is the real name of the saint who was bishop of Benevento), after the edict of Diocletian who authorized the persecution of the Christians, was decapitated at the solfatara of Pozzuoli. The blood that gushed from the martyr's head was gathered up and conserved in two ampoules by the wet nurse Eusebia. Only after over a thousand years, in 1389 to be precise, did it begin to boil and give rise to shouts of "miracle".
The celebration follows a well-defined programme. It begins in the morning using two keys to open the safe that contains the reliquary with the ampoules of San Gennaro's blood. The feast continues with the procession with the cardinal and the deputation of the Royal Chapel, followed by propitiatory prayers and a homily from the cardinal. In the case of the hoped-for miracle actually occurring, twenty-one cannon shots are fired from the castle, Castel dellOvo, to announce the fact to the city. If nothing happens, the invocations continue until the liquefaction occurs. One particularly singular and spectacular aspect of the celebration are the prayers and the pleas in Neapolitan dialect on the part of the relatives of the saint. If the miracle is slow to occur, they address San Gennaro with the epithet faccia ngialluta.
The ampoule with the blood of San Gennaro and also the saint's cranium are kept in Naples Cathedral. On the site where the church now stands there was originally a temple dedicated to Apollo. Inside the Duomo, the Chapel contains the bronze statue of the San Gennaro and 51 silver statues of the "joint patron saints". The treasure has been formed through various donations from sovereigns and rich worshippers. When the celebrations take place, the church is filled with the faithful to unlikely proportions.
Can you add me to your ping list please,Fatima
Anybody speak Neapolitan around here?
All true believers know that God abandoned the Catholic Church 500 years ago, or was it 200 years ago, or was it 1600 years ago, or was it when the Apostles died, or was it when Jesus Ascended, or, well, it happened at some point, I’m sure.
Anyway, we all know that the only miracles occur nowadays is when two or three get together and raise a prayer barn and get that tithing going.
Mark, you had me going there for a minute. “Prayer barn” too funny.
September 19, 2007
Nothing is known of Januarius's life. He is believed to have been martyred in the Diocletian persecution of 305. Legend has it that after Januarius was thrown to the bears in the amphitheater of Pozzuoli, he was beheaded, and his blood ultimately brought to Naples.
I thought that I blew it there, though.
I meant to say ...two or three gathered in His Name, raise a prayer barn and get that 10% tithing going.
Have you seen some of the modern ones? Dreadful. And the stage (devoid of altar of course) is set three to four feet high to make sure that none of the audience (not congregation) misses any of the nuances of the actors posturing on stage.
Can’t forget the Starbucks booth at the back of the swaying room either.
Neapolitan is a pungent and juicy tongue, with its own literature, theatre, and movies. Sort of Italy's answer to Yiddish.
Great town, South Philly on horse steroids.
Where you there before Kenny Bunk?:)”And things you never heard addressed to a dead saint.”:)
I ne songo Napuletan'! I songo Ciociar'!*
I think "faccia ngialluta" means "yellow-faced", but it probably has some much worse connotation that I don't know. :)
This thread seems to be calling out for me to post the words to Dduje' Paravise.
Poor St. Januarius, but I guess he's used to it by now!
One of the world's major museum towns, a fabulous yachting town (my thing), food town, sophisticated town, primitive town, opera town, beautiful town, dangerous town, you name it, I miss it. Be back for a visit with friends next Spring, deo volente.
As to San Gennaro. Everything Protestants find distasteful about Catholicism is on effulgent and shameless display in the baroque churches of Napoli, even the whores (pardon me, sex workers) have their own parish! And the statues, the relics, the processions, the superstitions mamma mia!
What can I say, I love the place, which is probably evidence of serious character defect.
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