Mysteries of the Bible

"Unanswered Questions of the Bible"

The Blood Of Saint Januarius

Posted by foryourfaith on September 6, 2011


Like many early Christian martyrs, Januarius was hard to kill. In the year AD 305 the Roman Emperor Diocletian had him roasted in a furnace that had been raging for three days, but Januarius emerged unscathed. He was thrown in with wild beasts, but they simply licked his feet. Finally he was beheaded in Pozzuoli, in Italy.

An anonymous traveler in 1389 was the first to document the miracle that followed. While friends prepared to take Januarius’s body to Naples, a woman of Pozzuoli carefully collected his blood in two bottles. Some time later Januarius’s ghost directed a citizen of Naples to find the severed head, which had rolled into a thicket. Head and body were reunited, just as the woman with his bottled blood appeared. As she approached, the solidified blood began to bubble and liquefy.

Ever since, the blood of Saint Januarius has liquefied in Naples several times in the course of a year – on the first Sunday in May, on his feast day of 19 September, and on 16 December – attracting crowds to the cathedral where the blood is preserved. Many believe it has miraculous healing power, but occasionally it fails to liquefy when expected, and this is deemed a sinister omen.

At the end of the nineteenth century the soldiers of Napoleon’s invading army were curious about stories of the liquefaction. When the priests brought out their prized possession, an army chemist claimed that the supposed blood was only wax, passed discreetly over a flame to make it liquefy. The French scattered the saint’s relics, but later they were recovered, and ceremonies resumed.

But more intrigue was to follow. In 1921 an English doctor, Frederick Newton Williams, was visiting the hospital dispensary at Naples, when an acolyte from the cathedral arrived and requested “the usual mixture” for the festival the next day. The chemist prepared a mixture of beef bile and sodium sulphate for the youth. To his visitor the chemist said, “As you see, miracles happen even in our own day – but nowadays they happen in hospital dispensaries.”


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