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Feast Day of September 19
Saint Januarius, or San Gennaro, bishop of Benevento, is a saint and martyr in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. According to legendary sources, he died in 305 during the persecution of Diocletian near Puteoli at the sulphur mines near the Solfatara, where he was visiting imprisoned deacons. After many tortures he was beheaded along with many other companions (see Saint Proculus of Pozzuoli). According to an early hagiography, his relics were first translated to the catacombs, called from his presence there of San Gennaro extra moenium by Saint Severus, bishop of Naples. Later the body was removed to Beneventum by Sico, duke of Benevento, then, in the turmoil at the time of Frederick Barbarossa, to the abbey of Montevergine, where the relics were rediscovered in 1480. At the instigation of Oliviero Cardinal Carafa, his body was translated in 1497 to Naples, of which he is now the chief patron saint. Carafa commissioned the richly decorated Succorpo in the crypt of the cathedral to properly house the reunited relics, for the saint's head had remained in Naples; it was finished in 1506 and is a prominent monument of the High Renaissance in the city.
Januarius is known for the miracle of the annual liquefaction of his blood, first reported in 1389. The dried blood is safely stored in small capsules in a reliquary. When these capsules are brought into the vicinity of his body on his feast day or on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, the dried blood becomes liquid.
Thousands of persons assemble to witness this event in the cathedral of Naples each year. The archbishop, at the high altar amid prayers and invocations holds up a glass phial that is said to contain the dried blood of San Gennaro, the city’s patron saint, and declares that it has liquefied. The announcement of the liquefaction is greeted with a 21-gun salute at the 13th-century Castel Nuovo.