Saint Gennaro, bishop and martyr, was officially designed Patron Saint of Naples and Campania by Giovanni II in 1980.
Saint Gennaro's real name was Ianuario. Not much is know about his origins. He
was probably born in Naples of a middle-class family from the Gens Januaria. Once
he became Bishop of Benevento, he went to the Campi Flegrei area to join in a
service held by the Deacon of the Church of Miseno, Sossio. Under the Emperor
Diocleziano, Christians had been more fiercely persecuted, and the Judge in Campania
had ordered the arrest of Christians in the area including Sossio. Gennaro, along
with the deacon Festo and the Reader Desiderio, went to visit him in prison. They
were recognised as Christians and the three of them were arrested for refusing
to deny their faith. On 19 September 305 AD, they were sentenced to be beheaded.
This took place in the Volcano's mounth at the Solfatara in Pozzuoli.
A blind man is said to have collected some of the blood and his sight was immediately
restored and a pious woman called Eusebia kept the blood in two small phials.
Gennaro's followers collected up his remains - as with all martyrs, these are
considered to have hidden powers - and they buried them in a place called "Marciano",
maybe along the ancient hill road from Pozzuoli to Naples. It was only later that
the Bishop of Naples, Giovanni I had the body of the martyr brought to the Catacombe at Capodimonte, where the oldest image of the Saint was found, dating back to V century.
A church was built in Saint Gennaro's honour on the site of his martyrdom in
1580 (Santuario di San Gennaro alla Solfatara), and here you can see the piece
of marble that the saint is believed to have been beheaded on. Legend has it thet
when the Saint's blood liquefies, you can also see almost dark red blood stains
reappear on this marble salb. In 831, the bones of the Saint were taken by the
Longobard prince, Sicone, to the Church of Santa Maria di Gerusalemme in Benevento.
Sometime later, between XII and XIII centuries, they were moved to the Abbey al
Montevergine where they would be safer. They stayed there and were almost forgetten
about until 1480 when they were rediscovered under the main altar in the Sanctuary.
It was not until 1497 that the Archbishop of Naples, Alessandro Carafa, managed
to persuade Brother Oliviero, the Benedictine Abbot, to let the sacred relics
return to Naples.
The Archbishop put them in the hypogeum, know as the "Succorpo" in the Duomo
where thay can still be found.
We have no further information about the head or blood of the Saint until XIV
century when Charles II of Anjou, during the building of the Duomo of Naples as
we know it today, commissioned a group of French Master to make a reliquary bust
in silver and gold (1305) to keep the remains of Saint Gennaro's cranial bones
The first record we have of the liquefying of the blood was in 1389 when the city of Naples, as weel as the church, were living through
one of the hardest and worst periods in their history.
The Saint's blood is currently kept in two small glass embalming jars covered
in different material which were made in the early IV century.
Saint Gennaro, before being nominated Patron Saint of Naples, was Patron of the
Bourbon Kingdom and Captain of the Army because, as well as protecting the city
from natural disasters, he eas also charged with defending it from the enemy and
with leading the Bourbon army to victory.
The miracle of the blood symbolises the close relationship between the people
and the Saint which is confirmed every time the blood liquefies. If the miracle
fails to happen it is a sign of impending disaster; the people thus pray to the
Saint and beg him for help. In May, on the Saturday before the first Sunday of
the month, the Neapolitan Church remembers how the Saint's body was moved around.
In the procession of May, San Gennaro is preceded by a procession of silver busts
of co-patrons. The procession of the statues, which is organised by the Deputazione
della Real Cappella delTesoro di San Gennaro, goes round the streets in the old part of the city, and is applauded by the
people as they go past. The procession starts at the Cathedral and finishes at
the Basilica di Santa Chiara, where the miracle happens.
The solid blood normally liquefies three times a yeat but at different times
and in different ways. Sometimes it fails to liquefy, thus defying laws of physics
and chemistry. The liquefying of his blood coincides with two other festivals:
19 September which is the anniversary of Gennaro's martyrdom, and 16 December
(but the miracle does not always happen on this date)wich marks the date of a
terrible volcanic erupation which stopped when the Saint's intervention had been
The miracle of Saint Gennaro's blood has been going on for centuries now; a mix
of faith, mystery and charm. It attracts both the believer and the scientist but,
in the end, is more a testimony to the piety and devotion of the Neapolitan people
who, for centuries, have turned to the Saint with their greetings, requests, thans