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San Gennaro: Mosaic by Lello da Orvieto in the apse of the Cathedral of Naples, 1322

Januarius (it. Gennaro , from Latin gatekeeper, * in Joppolo , Calabria ; † around 305 in Pozzuoli ) was a martyr and bishop of Naples and bishop of Benevento .

Life and afterlife

Little is known historically about the details of the life and work of St. Januarius, the beheading under Emperor Diocletian is the only halfway certain cornerstone. In addition, later legends describe that he walked out of a glowing furnace unharmed, and that wild animals that were hounded on him would have tame at his feet. According to tradition, seven companions died with him in the sulfur spring near Pozzuoli in the Phlegraean Fields : the deacons Socius, Proclus and Festus, the lecturer Desiderius and the Christians Gantiol, Eutychius, Acutius and Festus.

His bones were transferred to Benevento from the grave above ancient Naples in 835 . The famous blood miracle is first attested to on August 17, 1389. Thereupon, on May 1, 1491, the relics were brought back to Naples. There, San Gennaro is the patron of the cathedral. In Naples you can also visit the catacomb with its original burial place.

Januarius is the patron saint of Naples, the goldsmith and helper against volcanic eruptions. His feast day is September 19th .

Blood miracle

The saint is very well known among Catholics for the tightly closed ampoules kept in the cathedral of Naples , which supposedly contain the dried blood of the martyr, a reddish-brown substance. When the ampoules on the feast of Translation on May 1st or the Saturday before, on the feast day of the saint on September 19 and on December 16, the commemoration day of the warning of the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631 , brought near the head and there rotated and turned, the dried blood appears liquid. If it does not liquefy, which does happen, the people of Naples see it as a bad omen . Sometimes the phenomenon occurs outside of the specified dates.

The ampoules are brought near the altar on the festive days after a solemn procession in the cathedral. An ampoule is located in a ring-shaped holder that is located between two handles. The archbishop takes the relic by the two handles and turns it several times, which is accompanied by prayers of the faithful. The faithful receive confirmation of the liquefaction by a lay observer, who stands next to the bishop and waves a handkerchief when it has liquefied. The next day, the believers are given the ampoules with the liquid in a Eucharistic celebration for kissing, which they can see up close.

In Naples it is the custom that the newly appointed bishop must pray in front of the relic before taking office until the blood in the capsule has become liquid. The people see this as a sign that St. Januarius accepts and blesses his successor.

The blood miracle of Januarius was never officially recognized as a miracle by the Catholic Church, but it was tolerated as a popular ecclesiastical custom that allows many interpretations. There are several so-called blood miracles: something similar is known from the blood of St. Lawrence in Amaseno and from the blood of St. Pantaleon in Ravello.

The liquefaction of the substance did not last in 1980 and 2016.

Januarius as the saint of the androgynies

According to a slightly different version of the legend of the saints, St. Januarius was venerated as a saint of the androgynies at least in the 19th century . He then combined male and female attributes and was referred to as "femminiello". His blood is not just the ordinary blood of a martyr, but mixed with the blood of the menstruation ascribed to him .

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche dedicated the fourth book of his work The Happy Science to the saint . This can be explained on the one hand by the fact that he remembered January 1882, which he spent in Genoa, as a good time, as the weather was exceptionally pleasant and the sky was clear. Since Januarius is also the saint of the androgynies, which Nietzsche knew because he had also traveled to the place where it was worshiped (Naples), this dedication is sometimes understood as an alleged admission of Nietzsche's homosexual inclination.


  • Caspar Isenkrahe : Neapolitan blood miracles. 1912
  • Hans Achelis: The episcopal chronicle of Naples. 1930
  • Erna and Hans Melchers (eds.): The great book of saints. 1978, pp. 597-599
  • The Skeptic No. 17 3/04
  • Francesco Paolo de Ceglia: Thinking with the Saint: The Miracle of Saint Januarius of Naples and Science in Early Modern Europe in Early Science and Medicine 19 (2014), pp. 133-173

Web links

Commons : Januarius  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bad omen? Domradio from December 17, 2016
  2. a b Rüdiger Safranski: Nietzsche . Hanser, Munich / Vienna 2000, p. 253 f.