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Naples Italy Cathedral: The Blood of Saint Januarius & the Catacombs of Naples

About the Naples Cathedral:

In 472 AD, an eruption of Mount Vesuvius threatened Naples, similar to the one that destroyed Pompeii four centuries earlier. People fled to the catacombs of the city where Januarius was entombed and implored his intercession. The eruption stopped and the city was saved.

The Catacombs themselves date from the Third Century and are open to the public. It is an amazing look at the past and one we highly recommend. At this time the website does not appear to be working. In addition to the relics of Saint Januarius (in the crypt) the Cathedral features beautiful artwork and statuary both in the main sanctuary and in its many chapels.

There is even more to see below the crypt—ancient excavations reveal the old Roman city and even earlier ruins of the Greek city that was here. Be sure to see everything to get a real feel for this ancient city.

What makes the Cathedral unique is that it holds a vial of what is reputed to be the blood of Saint Januarius that locals say actually liquefies several days each year.

About Saint Januarius:

Januarius lived during the persecution of pilgrims by emperor Diocletian, one of the most cruel of all the enemies of the Church. Little information is available from his contemporaries, who probably did not live very long and were probably more concerned about survival rather than writing his history. It is believed that he was born in Benevento and became Bishop of Naples around the age of 20.  He is the Patron Saint of Naples.

He actively served his flock and helped to hide many Christians from the authorities. His martyrdom came about in 304 A.D. when he visited fellow Christians in jail and was himself arrested. Tradition tells the story that he was originally thrown to the lions but rather than attack him the bowed in homage. Whether accurate or not, the authorities finally beheaded him.

The Cathedral in Naples is perhaps best known for the fact that it houses a vial containing the blood of Saint Januarius.   This is where the “miracle of the blood” , where his blood actually liquefies, is said to occur on certain days of the year. This said to occur on his feast day (September 19), December 16 and the first Sunday in May.  Normally, after a period that can range from two minutes to an hour, the solid mass turns red and begins to bubble.  The ampoules, which contain a dark solid mass, are enclosed in a reliquary that is held up and rotated sideways by a priest to show the blood has liquified, as you can see from the photo below. This is usually done by the Archbishop of Naples while the people pray.


The blood of Saint Januarius liquefies several times each yearTraditionally, the Archbishop leads a Mass on the feast day and the liquefied blood vials are placed on the altar of the Cathedral for eight days. The city then marks the occasion with a 21-gun salute. Most Neapolitans take the miracle as a sign of God’s mercy and fear that times when it does not do so signal some calamity that will befall the city. Among those dates are September of 1939 (the beginning of World War II), September, 1943 (Italy bows out of World War II and the German Army occupies Italy), December of 2016 (there was an earthquake that year just south of the city that resulted in over 2500 deaths).

The reliquary with the ampoules remains on view for the faithful for eight days, during which they can kiss it while a priest turns it to show that the blood is still liquid. Then it is returned to the safety vault inside the Chapel of the Treasury of the Cathedral.

Photo on left credit Katherine Wilson, Visitnaples.eu

The miracle is not approved by the Church, but neither has it condemned it.

Here is a video with Pope Francis, taken on one occasion when it did liquefy.


Finding the Cathedral in Naples:

The Cathedral is located in an older part of the city and even though it is very large it is easy to miss if you are just walking by.

The Cathedral is closed from 12:30-4:30 p.m. so be sure to take that into account. Mass times are Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday Masses are 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. We are not aware of any Saturday Masses but you can check with them to be sure.

Address: Via Duomo, 147, 80138 Naples.

GPS coordinates: 40° 51′ 8.8344” N, 14° 15′ 33.4368” E

Tel:   +39 081 294980.

The official website of the Naples Cathedral is not working at this time.

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