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The Miracle of Saint Januarius between faith, tradition and science

The Miracle

The cult of the miracle of Saint Januarius has always been an integral part of Neapolitan culture. Three times a year, on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, on December 16th but especially on September 19th, thousands of believers flock to the Chapel and to the Duomo Cathedral of Naples to witness the prodigy of the liquefaction of his blood.
The blood of the saint is kept in a sacred glass vial hermetically sealed along with two other phials containing the blood of Saint Agatha and Saint Januarius, bishop. During the celebration of the patron saint, the bishop of Naples shows the phial containing the blood to the crowd of believers gathered in the Cathedral of Naples. The atmosphere is thick with expectation and the "parents", mostly elderly Neapolitan women, await anxiously the moment when the coagulated blood in the vial will dissolve.

Faith

The "parents", elderly women, are linked to the saint by an atavistic relationship and unconditional faith, rooted in Naples' Greek origins. In their collective imagination, they descend directly from the saint and his nurse Eusebia, who would have collected his blood after decapitation. The "parents" repeat ancient rituals that renew the myth of eternal return and the hope of resurrection.
The liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius is a sign of the divine presence and the protection of the patron saint towards the city. The faith of the believers is a fundamental element of the Miracle of Saint Januarius that represents for them a moment of prayer and intense spiritual reflection.

Tradition

The Miracle of Saint Januarius is an event of great importance in the history of Naples, whose tradition dates back to at least the 11th century. The city of Naples has often been hit by calamitous events, such as plagues, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, which have caused widespread damage and loss of human lives.
In these times of difficulty, the people of Naples turned to their patron saint, Saint Januarius, asking for his intercession and protection. Legend has it that the saint, through his blood, performed numerous miracles that saved the city from destruction and death.
One of the most famous of these miracles is the defeat of the plague that struck Naples in the 11th century. The Neapolitans invoked Saint Januarius and his intercession helped stop the plague, saving many human lives. Ever since, the cult of the patron saint has taken root in Neapolitan culture, becoming a fundamental element of the city's tradition.

Science

Despite the phenomenon of the liquefaction of Saint Januarius' blood not having a definite scientific explanation, in recent years numerous studies have been carried out to better understand this event.
According to some scientists, the liquefaction of Saint Januarius' blood could be caused by a chemical process of blood hydration, triggered when the vial is exposed to outside air. In this case, the air could react with the salts present in the blood, causing liquefaction. However, this theory does not explain why liquefaction occurs only on some occasions and not others.
Another scientific theory suggests that the liquefaction of Saint Januarius' blood could be caused by a piezoelectric phenomenon. This occurs when a solid material, such as the glass vial, is subjected to pressure, generating an electric charge. According to this theory, the pressure exerted on the container during the liquefaction ceremony could generate an electric charge causing the blood to liquefy.
However, none of these scientific theories have yet provided a definitive explanation of the liquefaction phenomenon of Saint Januarius' blood. The phenomenon therefore remains a mystery that continues to fascinate and arouse the devotion of believers.


San Gennà, Pienzace tu!

It is unnecessary to reiterate how popular and deeply rooted the cult of Saint Januarius is in Neapolitan culture. The people of Naples have an equal relationship with the saint who is often invoked in case of personal worries, collective fears, natural events, disasters or to guess a lottery number! Saint Januarius is considered like a brother or father to turn to in the certainty that he will never fail to help. Hence the invocation "San Gennà, pienzace tu" - "Saint Januarius, think about it yourself!"

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