At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Festival of San Gennaro

Worldwide celebrations for patron saint of Naples


An artistic depiction of the beheading of San Gennaro in 305
An artistic depiction of the beheading of
San Gennaro in 305
Local worshippers, civic dignitaries and visitors meet together in the Duomo in Naples every year on this day to remember the martyrdom of the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro.

Each year a service is held to enable the congregation to witness the dried blood of the saint, which is kept in a glass phial, miraculously turn to liquid.

The practice of gathering blood to be kept as a relic was common at the time of the decapitation of San Gennaro in 305.

The ritual of praying for the miracle of liquefaction of the blood on the anniversary of his death dates back to the 13th century.

Gennaro is said to have been the Bishop of Benevento and was martyred during the Great Persecution led by the Roman Emperor Diocletian for trying to protect other Christians.

His decapitation is believed to have taken place in Pozzuoli but his remains were transferred to Naples in the 15th century to be housed in the Duomo.

Pope Francis kisses the vial containing San Gennaro's blood at a ceremony at the Naples Duomo in 2015
Pope Francis kisses the phial containing San Gennaro's blood
at a ceremony at the Naples Duomo in 2015
The festival of the saint’s martyrdom is celebrated each year by Neapolitan communities all over the world and the recurrence of the miracle in Naples is televised and reported in newspapers.

On 19 September in 1926, immigrants from Naples congregated along Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of Manhattan in New York City to celebrate the Festa di San Gennaro there for the first time.

Over the years the festival has expanded into an 11-day street fair celebrating Italian food and drink.

The Festival of San Gennaro is celebrated every year on Mulberry Street in New York's Little Italy
The Festival of San Gennaro is celebrated every year
on Mulberry Street in New York's Little Italy
In 2014 a Little Italy bakery constructed the world’s largest ever cannolo, a giant version of the popular Italian pastry that contains a sweet, creamy filling, to mark the occasion.

There is a major shrine to San Gennaro in the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Manhattan.

Festivals are also held in the Bronx, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Nevada and Seattle.

On the few occasions the miracle hasn’t happened in the Duomo in Naples, Neapolitans have dreaded a catastrophe occurring. In 1980, one occasion when the blood did not turn to liquid, a massive earthquake later struck the region.

The imposing entrance to the Duomo on Via Duomo, off Via Tribunali in Naples
The imposing entrance to the Duomo on Via Duomo, off
Via Tribunali in Naples
Travel tip:

The Duomo in Naples, in Via Duomo, off Via Tribunali, was built over the ruins of two earlier Christian churches for Charles I of Anjou at the end of the 13th century. One of the main attractions inside is the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, which contains many precious works of art. The Duomo is also sometimes referred to as Cattedrale di San Gennaro. It is open to the public from 8.30 to 1.30 and 2.30 to 8pm Monday to Saturday and 8.30 to 1.30 and 4.30 to 7.30pm on Sundays.

Travel tip:

It is not known whether Gennaro was born in Benevento or Naples, but he is believed to have become a priest in Benevento when he was just 15 years old. In ancient times Benevento was one of the most important cities in southern Italy and there are many Roman remains to be seen there, including a triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan and an amphitheatre.

More reading:


The martyred Roman soldier who became Sant'Alessandro of Bergamo

Why Italians look to Saint Anthony of Padua when things - or people - go missing



(Photo of Mulberry Street in New York by Nightscream CC BY-SA 2.5)

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