san gennaro

San Gennaro

San Gennaro is the patron saint of the city of Naples. He was bishop of Benevento and was martyred in 305; after being imprisoned and condemned, he was beheaded near what is now Solfatara. The Saint's relics were taken to the catacombs of Capodimonte, which took his name. The bones of St. Gennaro were brought to the Cathedral of Naples in 1497, when a crypt was built under the high altar. The crypt also contains two ancient ampullae containing the blood of St. Gennaro, collected by Eusebia, a devout woman, immediately after his martyrdom.

Feast of St. Gennaro

The first Saturday in May, 19 September and 16 December are three important dates to commemorate the Saint.

Very characteristic is the sumptuous city procession, in which the bust of San Gennaro (a 14th-century masterpiece by the goldsmiths of Charles of Anjou) is carried through the streets of Naples. The balconies of the houses along the procession route are adorned with silk drapes, damask in colour, hung in the air during the festivities. Near the cathedral you can admire the spire of San Gennaro, built by the Neapolitans as a sign of gratitude fo

Miracle of St. Gennaro

The miracle of San Gennaro consists in the liquefaction of blood. The clotted blood contained in two crystal ampoules, without the intervention of any external agent, changes from a solid to a liquid state and is seen to boil. The miracle of San Gennaro is interpreted as a sign of the Saint’s approval of the city’s ‘conduct’ and renews the bond between Naples and its patron saint.

il miracolo di san gennaro

 During the days of the celebration of San Gennaro, people celebrate and pray for the miracle of the liquefaction of blood. On the three feast dates, the glass balsam jars are displayed to the faithful during a large religious ceremony in the presence of the city’s authorities.

The statue of San Gennaro is at the centre of a solemn procession to Santa Chiara on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May

Blood of St. Gennaro

The blood can ‘melt’, as if it were gushing from the body of San Gennaro at that very moment, in a matter of minutes, several hours or even days. If the blood does not liquefy quickly, the ‘relatives of San Gennaro’ come into play. These are women who invoke the Saint and the miracle with dialectal prayers that are part of the local religious and folkloric heritage. They address the Saint with simple and colourful expressions such as ‘guappone’ and ‘faccia ngialluta’.

Explanation of the San Gennaro miracle

The blood ‘melts’ and liquefies and there is no scientific explanation for the miracle of San Gennaro. The Church has never officially pronounced on the miracle.

History of St. Gennaro

In 1527, a group of Neapolitan aristocrats, in front of a notary, wrote a pact addressed to Saint Gennaro. The pact stipulated that the Saint should stop the misfortunes the city was experiencing at the time (famine, plague, war and an earthquake caused by Vesuvius) and the Neapolitan people should build a chapel in his honour, in which to keep his relics and collect a treasure. Indeed, the misfortunes ceased and the Saint was promoted to general of the army and ‘salaried’ so that he could maintain his chapel.

In 1601, the ‘Deputation of San Gennaro’ was created to administer the Saint’s interests. Today the Mayor is a member of the Deputation by right.

In 1799, with the arrival of the Spaniards, the Saint was ‘dismissed’ as patron saint. The reason? He was guilty of having liquefied blood in front of the French, the invaders who were waiting for that miracle to legitimise their occupation.

San Gennaro was rehabilitated as the patron saint of Naples when he once again managed to stop an eruption of Vesuvius.

Statue of St. Gennaro

The statue of San Gennaro is 1 metre 90 centimetres high and was reconstructed after examination of the Saint’s bones. The Saint’s age at death was found to be 35 years.

la statua di san gennaro

The Treasure of St. Gennaro

The treasure of San Gennaro is considered the richest in the world. It contains more than 21 thousand precious objects given to the Saint over the centuries. The masterpiece and most valuable piece is the mitre studded with 3840 precious stones, kept in the vault of the Banco di Napoli.

Some of these precious objects can be admired in the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro, next to the Cathedral. The exhibition project includes different objects from the vast patrimony owned by the Deputation, which are displayed in rotation from year to year.

il tesoro di san gennaro
la mitrra del tesoro di san gennaro