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The Miracle of San Gennaro

Three Days of the Feast

The Feast of the Patron Saint Gennaro falls on September 19 in memory of the the martyrdom of San Gennaro which presumably occurred in 305 AD.

There are two other feasts of note during the year:

On the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (in memory of the transport of the remains of the body of the Saint from Montevergine to Naples) a similar celebration is held. Followers crowd the Cathedral and pray that the miracle of the liquefaction of San Gennaro’s blood is repeated. The first known occurrence of the blood phenomenon was in 1389.

Both in May and September, the celebration is followed by the “octave”: a period of eight days during which the casing container of the blood is exposed to the public for the traditional kiss.

The third celebration is on December 16th which dates back from 1632, the year following the terrible eruption of Vesuvius. According to tradition, San Gennaro saved his beloved Naples from the eminent tragedy.

The Spectacle of the Miracle

The ceremony of San Gennaro is a perfect snapshot of Naples with its contrast and social complexities that coexist and come together for this unique event. The cathedral is filled to the brim with believers, onlookers and tourists while the highest ecclesiastic authorities, the mayor, the noble Delegation of San Gennaro and representatives made up of illustrious descendants of the Bourbons and San Gennaro’s ancestors are there to directly witness the miracle.


The Parenti di San Gennaro (Relatives of St. Gennaro), seated on the first pews soberly and somberly recite their rituals and prayers in the Neapolitan dialect. This congregation of women exalt the saint, praying in a respectful but also personal and familiar way:

San Gennaro mio fa tu ca io nun ne pozzo proprio cchiù and arrimmierece chisti guaje (I cannot take it anymore..fix my troubles…). Naples is forever in a state of emergency or in disarray so the ritual is always relevant, unfortunately!

The cardinal holds the vial with the blood and shows how it is still coagulated.

For the relatives waiting is not a good sign so the prayers become even more insistent as if they were yelling from their balconies to call to their child playing ball in the street below. San Gennà… Facci ‘a grazia…Faccia gialla fa ‘o miracolo.

San Gennaro…have mercy on us, Yellow Face give us a miracle. Faccia gialluta-Yellow Face is the nickname of the saint, referencing the golden bust representing him. Even if the sound of the nickname might be offensive, it is also is quite personal and informal.

When the blood liquifies a distiguished member of the Delegation waves a white handkerchief towards the applauding crowd.

Naples-New York

On the same day Little Italy in New York celebrates San Gennaro as well. How did it begin? The Neapolitan immigrants who were owners of a bar on Mulberry Street built a small chapel dedicated to San Gennaro where they collected offers for the poor people of the neighborhood. This is where the celebration began. Now the celebration lasts 11 days where the main theme is food: the zeppole pastries which remind the descendants of the immigrants of the sweet Neapolitan flavor.

In Naples, in addition to the torroni nougats sold on the stands between Via Duomo and Via Foria, in the last few years a pasticceria has invented a new pastry: the hat of San Gennaro!



If you are not able to be in Naples on one of the three days but you would like to witness the miracle of the liquefying blood in a streamlined way, every Tuesday morning at San Gregorio Ameno church you can observe the liquefying of Saint Patrizia. Believe it or not, it is a great excuses to visit a fabulous late Baroque style church.


The story continues … The day after the miracle of San Gennaro people play numbers at the lotto.

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