Saint Ital. San Gennaro (Januarius), a Christian martyr, patron saint of Naples, born in Naples, or according to some accounts in Benevento, April 21, 272, beheaded at Pozzuoli, Sept. 19, 305. He was made bishop of Benevento about 303, just as the persecution under
Diocletian began. During a visit which he made to the imprisoned confessors of the faith at Nola, he was arrested and taken before Timotheus, the governer of the province. This officer is said to have condemned him and his companions to be cast to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre at Pozzuoli; but as the animals refused to harm them, they were all beheaded. It is further related that Januarius was buried at Pozzuoli, but two small phials filled with his blood on the place of execution were afterward presented to Severus, bishop of Naples. To this latter city the remains of the martyr were transferred about the year 400; but in 817 they were carried off to Benevento by Sicon, prince of that city, and from Benevento they were conveyed in 1159 to Monte Vergine. On Jan. 13, 1497, they were once more brought back to Naples with great pomp. Many miracles are attributed by the early annalists to the exhibition of his relics on various occasions, as the staying of the plague and of eruptions of Vesuvius. It has long been customary in Naples to expose these relics to the public veneration on the saint's festival, Sept. 19, and also on the first Sunday in May and Dec. 16, as well as in seasons of national calamity.
The relics are exposed amid great solemnity on the high altar of the cathedral, or in the church of Santa Chiara. Then takes place the celebrated liquefaction of the saint's blood. The two phials, containing what appears as a hard substance, and a glass case enclosing the head, are brought separately from the chapel in which they are preserved, the body itself reposing in the shrine beneath the high altar of the cathedral. As soon as the head is brought near the phials the blood is seen to become liquid, to bubble, rise in the bottles, and fall again; the alleged miracle lasting sometimes eight days. On such occasions popular enthusiasm is raised to its height. The nature of this phenomenon has been investigated by scientific men of various creeds and nations, and several hypotheses have been suggested to account for it. Roman Catholics regard it as a miracle, but it has never received the sanction of the church, such as is granted to miracles in the solemn processes of beatification and canonization.