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Blood of St. Januarius does not liquefy; Naples residents see bad omen

December 19, 2016

A miracle that has taken place repeatedly for centuries—the liquefication of the blood of St. Januarius—did not occur as expected last week, causing worries among the faithful.

St. Januarius, a Bishop of Naples, died as a martyr in the persecution of Diocletian, early in the 4th century. A vial of his dried blood is preserved in the Naples cathedral, and inexplicably turns liquid three times a year: on September 19, the saint’s feast day; on the first Sunday of May, commemorating the arrival of his relics in the cathedral; and on December 16, the anniversary of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The Church has never formally pronounced on the miracle, although the Archbishop of Naples regularly leads the ceremony at which the vials are placed upon the cathedral altar and the miracle is proclaimed.

However, the blood did not liquefy on December 16 this year. (The miracle had taken place, as expected, a few months earlier, on September 18.)

Many residents of Naples believe that if the saint’s blood does not turn to liquid form, it is a sign that some tragedy will befall the city. The miracle did not occur in 1980, shortly before an earthquake south of Naples caused over 2,500 deaths. The blood also remained in solid form in 1939, when a cholera epidemic struck the city; in 1939, just prior to the outbreak of World War II; and in 1943, when Nazi forces occupied Italy. In the most distant past, the absence of the regular miracle was associated with military losses, volcanic eruptions, and outbreaks of the plague.

 
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