The blood of Naples’ patron St Gennaro liquefied at the city’s cathedral on Thursday evening. This is seen as a good omen by Neapolitans.
The ‘miracle’ traditionally occurs on three dates: 19 September (the saint’s feast day), 16 December and the first Saturday in May.
The vial of dried blood, which is claimed to be a sample of St Gennaro’s, is exposed for public veneration. “Relatives” of St. Gennaro chant litanies and prayers during the day, a tradition started in the 19th century.
Yesterday (16th December 2021), at 17.59, the blood was seen to liquefy. This means the miracle has taken place on all three occasions this year.
Who was St Gennaro?
St Gennaro, or St Januarius, was a bishop of Benevento in the third century. His bones and blood are preserved as relics at the cathedral in Naples. He was martyred during the Christian persecution, under Emperor Diocletian, circa 305.
According to local lore, if the blood of St Gennaro fails to liquefy it signals imminent disaster including war, famine or disease.
Superstitious Neapolitans believe it is a worse omen if the miracle does not occur on the saint’s feast day.
Two months after the blood failed to liquefy on 19 September 1980, Irpinia – 50 km east of Naples – was hit with a devastating earthquake that killed almost 3,000 people.
The miracle also did not occur in 1939 and 1940, coinciding with the beginning of world war two and Italy’s entry into the conflict. Another failure to liquefy was September 1943: the date of the Nazi occupation.