The feast of St. Gennaro and the magic ampoules

The "miracle" of St. Gennaro” !

It is 19th September and is a special day in Naples, everyone are waiting for so-called “the blood miracle of St. Gennaro”! After the procession of holy bust and ampoule with blood take places in the streets of historic centre, people return in church. Around the Cathedral there are a lot of devotees, believers, curious onlookers, and tourists. Inside, we find traditional prayers of the “parenti of St. Gennaro”, a group of faithful women who incite the dissolution of blood with growing complaints. Everybody are waiting for miracle!

How does the miracle of San Gennaro happen?

The dissolution of blood of St. Gennaro is certainly the most ancient Neapolitan mistery. The blood from solid condition becomes liquid for three times in a year: on 16th December, on the first weekend of May and on 19th September (patron saint’s festival). Believers consider this phenomenon a miracle but if liquefaction doesn’t happen, this event is considered “baleful”. Indeed, people remember when in 1980 the blood of St. Gennaro hasn’t dissolved; this was the year of a terrible earthquake…

Who was Gennaro, turned around in Patron of Naples?

Christian documents prove that Gennaro was the bishop of Benevento, and he was beheaded during the persecution of Christians by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 305. At that time, the bishop came in Pozzuoli to call in a deacon imprisoned due to persecutions, but also Gennaro was imprisoned and he was sentenced to be eaten by animals in the Flavian Amphitheater (Pozzuoli). But, after the rebellion of Christian community, Romans decided to behead the bishop near Solfatara.

During that period, Christians had the custom to preserve the blood of martyrs. So, according to the legend, after the martyrdom, a woman collected and kept some of the martyr’s blood in an ampoule, while bishop’s body was placed first in Fuorigrotta and then in Catacombs of Capodimonte. Some historians talk about “the first liquefaction” during this removal of Saint’s skeleton but the official date for the first miracle is 1389.

St. Gennaro as Mithra, the pagan deity?

The most ancient portrait of St. Gennaro was found in Catacombs and it dates back to V century. In this painting the Saint has mt. Vesuvio behind him, so as to protect the city from tragic events. Because of similarities in the representations, some researchers talk about “religious syncretism” between St. Gennaro and pagan God Mithra (symbol of protection for Naples during the pre-Christian age). The same miter, covered by gold and precious stones, looks like God Mithra’s one.

Faith or magic? The most ancient Neapolitan mistery

There are several records about this blood dissolution. Someone looks at this as alchemical trick, someone judges this event a miracle

Certainly, we can say that this phenomenon remains in the middle between faith and magic, unreal and real, but St. Gennaro is the Patron of Naples and in these days everyone are waiting for the “miracle” with typical Neapolitan folklore and a kind of respect for the blood of Saint, patron of the city.

Among persons eagerly await, there is a feeling of warmth and emotion in the air about people who is waiting for the “grace” of his Patron, as much as a mother desired her son comes back home. Being among the crowd, you find yourself in an unreal atmosphere until you’ll shout “VIVA SAN GENNARO” together with bell ring and handkerchief waving, even if you are not a believer!

So, do you think it is an artful trick or a miracle?