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Celebrating the Miracle of San Gennaro in Napoli
27 September 2022
From Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Indra Beaufort
NAPLES, Italy - In the heart of downtown Naples, visitors trickled in early Monday morning on the streets of Via Duomo to experience the annual legendary blood miracle of patron Saint Januarius. Within a few hours, hundreds of locals and tourists gathered at the Naples cathedral of Chiesa Cattedrale di Napoli also known as the Duomo di Napoli to witness the miracle of Saint Januarius or San Gennaro in Italian during La Festa di San Gennaro (The Feast of Saint Januarius), Sept. 19. The religious event, celebrated every year on Sept. 19, is also a public holiday in Naples.
NAPLES, Italy - In the heart of downtown Naples, visitors trickled in early Monday morning on the streets of Via Duomo to experience the annual legendary blood miracle of patron Saint Januarius.
Within a few hours, hundreds of locals and tourists gathered at the Naples cathedral of Chiesa Cattedrale di Napoli also known as the Duomo di Napoli to witness the miracle of Saint Januarius or San Gennaro in Italian during La Festa di San Gennaro (The Feast of Saint Januarius), Sept. 19.
The religious event, celebrated every year on Sept. 19, is also a public holiday in Naples.
According to Neopolitan legend, San Gennaro was believed to have been martyred during the Christian persecution of Emperor Diocletian in the third century.
The legend also says that when bishop Severus moved San Gennaro’s body remains from Agro Marciano to Naples, he encountered a pious woman named Eusebia who took two ampoules of San Gennaro’s blood.
Today, the ampoules are kept in a safe behind the altar inside the Duomo di Napoli.
The Naples church is also popularly known as the Cattedrale di San Gennaro in honor of the city’s patron saint. Families, monks, priests, and nuns come from all over Italy and various countries to witness the blood of Saint Gennaro liquefying inside a sealed glass vessel in front of their very eyes.
The liquefaction of the congealed blood of San Gennaro cannot be explained scientifically; it is something that just happens—miraculously.
Locals say that San Gennaro is also the protector of the city of Naples and they always look forward to the blood liquefaction because it is their belief that the liquefaction prevents disease, war, famine, and prevents Mount Vesuvius from erupting.
“In one year when the blood did not liquefy, I believe that was a sign of COVID-19,” said Napoli native 83 year-old Antonio Giuseppi.
Traditionally, San Gennaro’s blood liquefaction happens at least three times a year: Festa di San Gennaro on Sept. 19; the first Saturday of May; and the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius on Dec. 16.
Saint Januarius is also known as the patron saint of blood donors.
On Monday morning, the ampoules were exposed to the public and televised from the Duomo di Napoli for those who were unable to attend the event or see San Gennaro’s miracle up close.
After sunrise, church staff opens the safe using two keys to take out the blood ampoules from San Gennaro's casket.
Once the ampoules are taken out, they are carried through the church in a procession, led by the Cardinal and church officials holding a tall cross walking the hallways inside the Naples cathedral with the church choir solemnly singing cantatas in the background. The crowd, hypnotized by the religious procession, clapped and cheered, some with tears streaming down their faces.
One can see the deep devotion and love that locals have for San Gennaro, as they stretch their arms for hours to take videos and photos, while paying respects to the blood, sweat, and tears on what they believe San Gennaro has given to his people.
After the blood liquefaction, twenty-one cannon salutes are normally fired from Castel dell'Ovo, also called the Egg Castle, on the shorelines of downtown Naples. According to Napolitano legend, the castle is homage to the Roman poet Virgil.
La Festa di San Gennaro is more than just a celebration of faith. It is also a daylong celebration of Italian culture and food. The streets of Via Duomo were populated with various street vendors. The smells of Italian espressos, bacon-egg biscuits, and warm caramelized candied peanuts permeate the air, enticing visitors to their street carts.
Street vendors also threw sea salt on visitors after purchasing a red cornicello amulet and wished buona fortuna to the visitors. According to Italian tradition, a cornicello symbolizes good luck and fortune.
Maria Costa, who is visiting from Spain, said that she enjoyed La Festa di San Gennaro.
“I am glad I was able to celebrate the religious history of San Gennaro and enjoy the Neapolitan culture and delicious food,” said Costa.
The San Gennaro festival is also celebrated worldwide, including in Little Italy, New York; a tradition that was introduced by Italian immigrants to the United States.
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