Saint Gennaro

Il tesoro di gennaroSaint Gennaro, bishop and martyr of IV century, was officially designated patron saint of Naples and Campania by Giovanni II in 1980.
Saint Gennaro’s real name was Ianuario. Not much is known about his origins. He was probably born in Naples of a middle-class family from the Gens Januaria. Once he became Bishop of Benevento, he went to the Campi Flegrei area to join in a service held by the Deacon of the Church of Miseno, Sossio.
Under the Emperor Diocleziano, Christians had been more fiercely persecuted, and the Judge in Campania had ordered the arrest of Christians in the area including Sossio. Gennaro, along with the Deacon Festo and the Reader Desiderio, went to visit him in prison. They were recognised as Christians and the three of them were arrested for refusing to deny their faith. On 19 September 305 a.C., they were sentenced to be beheaded. This took place in the Volcano’s mouth at the Solfatara in Pozzuoli.A blind man is said to have collected some of the blood and his sight was immediately restored and a pious woman called Eusebia kept the blood in two small phials. Gennaro’s followers collected up his remains – as with all martyrs, these are considered to have hidden powers – and they buried them in a place called “Marciano”, maybe along the ancient hill road from Pozzuoli to Naples. It was only later that the Bishop of Naples, Giovanni I had the body of the martyr brought to the catacombs at Capodimonte, where the oldest image of the Saint was found, dating back to V century. A church was built in Saint Gennaro’s honour on the site of his martyrdom in 1580 (Santuario di San Gennaro alla Solfatara), and here you can see the piece of marble that the saint is believed to have been beheaded on.
Legend has it that when the Saint’s blood liquefies, you can also see almost dark red blood stains reappear on this marble slab. In 831, the bones of the Saint were taken by the Longobard prince, Sicone, to the Church of Santa Maria di Gerusalemme in Benevento. Sometime later, between XII and XIII centuries, they were moved to the Abbey at Montevergine where they would be safer. They stayed there and were almost forgotten about until 1480 when they were rediscovered under the main altar in the Sanctuary. It was not until 1497 that the Archbishop of Naples, Alessandro Carafa, managed to persuade Brother Oliviero, the Benedictine Abbot, to let the sacred relics return to Naples. The Archbishop put them in the hypogeum, known as the “Succorpo” in the Duomo where they can still be found. We have no further information about the head or blood of the Saint until XIV century when Charles II of Anjou, during the building of the Duomo of Naples as we know it today, commissioned a group of French Masters to make a reliquary bust in silver and gold (1305) to keep the remains of Saint Gennaro’s cranial bones in. The first record we have of the liquefying of the blood was in 1389 when the city of Naples, as well as the church, were living through one of the hardest and worst periods in their history.

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