If I talk with a Neapolitan or walk along the busy streets of this city it’s very likely I can hear someone say “San Gennaro pensaci tu!” which is like to say “San Gennaro solve my problems!”.
This phrase hides the deep devotion and affection of a whole population for his patron saint San Gennaro. In fact Neapolitans have been entrusting their city to him for centuries and keep waiting with anxiety and participation for “the miracle of San Gennaro”, that is the liquefaction of his blood contained in two phials. People attribute a strong omen to it either if it occurs or not: peace and safety for the city or dangerous events. But is it really the saint’s blood? How does this liquefaction happen? There are no certain answers, although scientists have analyzed it. What is for sure is the cheerful and enthusiastic participation of the faithful. San Gennaro was born in 272 A.D., was bishop of Benevento and was beheaded at Pozzuoli, near Naples, during the fierce persecution of the Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. According to the legend a woman picked up the blood and poured it in the phials. After various shifts the relics of the saint were placed in the Cathedral in 1497, and kept inside a gold and silver reliquary bust. In addition to the bust and the two phials, if you visit the Cathedral, you can also admire the San Gennaro treasure, one of the richest and most important treasures of the world, made up of jewels, gems and objects of great value that in seven centuries have been given by imperators, popes and illustrious men. You have three possibilities to take part in one of the most sincere events of the city and perceive the visceral and devoted attachment of the Neapolitan people to the saint.
The dates are the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, to remind the translation of the relics, September 19, date of his martyrdom and December 16 to commemorate 1631 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius when Naples was salvaged by the saint’s protection. In May you could mix in the crowd to be present at the exciting and suggestive procession of San Gennaro statue through the streets of the historical center where people applaud and throw petals from the balconies at the passing of the statue. If you are in the city in September you can live the eager expectation of the liquefaction of the blood in the cathedral, that can take minutes or hours. But it is not only the miracle that can interest you, what appears to your eyes is an involving event showing a mixture of faith, folklore and mysticism. If the cardinal announces: “The miracle has happened!”, people applaud with emotion and joy and those who are lucky enough to stand in the first rows have the chance to kiss the phial of the blood liquefied. So keep in mind these three dates…you have three possibilities in the year.