The City of Miracles

April 16, 2012 / Events
Naples, Campania
Neapolitan locals will tell you it’s true. In Naples, you can witness two miracles and even ask for a personal miracle. A visit to three churches in the downtown area allow you to judge for yourself.

Every Saturday before the first Sunday in May, the blood of San Gennaro (hopefully!) liquefies during a celebratory mass. Located at Il Duomo, two hermetically sealed ampoules store the dried blood of the city’s patron saint. Twice a year (including the patron saint’s day on September 19th), the Cardinal takes the ampoule from its side niche and shows parishoners that the miracle has taken place. If San Gennaro’s blood doesn’t liquefy, many say that terrible catastrophes will plague the city. Processions follow the mass and the streets are closed so that rows of vendors can sell candies and other delights.

If you miss San Gennaro’s miracle, once a week after the nine-thirty mass at the San Gregorio Armeno Church, the blood of Saint Patricia also liquefies. The patron saintess of Naples, she was a descendant of Constantine the Great who spent her life helping the needy of the city. Five hundred years after her death, a knight tried to pluck out Saint Patricia’s tooth as a memento and blood began to pour out of the cavity. The nuns of the church preserved some of this blood in vials. Now, after every Tuesday morning mass, worshippers can kiss the ampoule with her liquid blood inside.

Then, on any given day, you can visit the Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo where the physician and canonized saint San Giuseppe Moscati rests. Worshippers come here and leave silver ex-voto body parts along the walls that they want to have healed. Many say their illnesses have miraculously disappeared thanks to Saint Moscati’s blessings.

If you leave your doubts aside, you’ll find that these churches hold a bit of community spirit and a sense of hope. They are charming to visit and are also what give Naples its reputation of being the ‘city of miracles.’

by Barbara Zaragoza

Barbara is author of “The Espresso Break: Tours and Nooks of Naples, Italy and Beyond” available on Amazon.com in print as well as Kindle versions.
Visit her website about Naples or check out Napoli Unplugged. Bonnie Alberts, Penny Ewles-Bergeron and Barbara have teamed up to create a new Naples travel guide, out in Spring 2014!

13 Responses to “The City of Miracles”

  1. As a Neapolitan..in addition to what happens in the different churches..I may read differently the quote “the city of miracles”! As a matter of fact Naples is the city where the impossible is possible and where the unexpected is to be expected..nothing is routine!!!This is one of its shortcomings but also one of its charms and what makes it intriguing…

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  2. Toni DeBella

    Barbara, In the south of Italy, especially, the charm of these traditions outweighs any cynicism one might have about whether miracles exist or not. After all, couldn’t all of us use a miracle or two these days? I know I can! Thanks for a very well written and interesting note! Toni

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  3. Joan Schmelzle

    I knew about San Gennaro and St. Moscati, but I had not heard about St. Patricia. I knew about San Gregorio Armeno, but have never visited the church. I’m usually wandering on Via San Gregoriao Armeno admiring Christmas presepi. I will try to do both when I am in Naples again next December.

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  4. Thanks everyone for responses that make me smile!

    @Joan: The best about San Gregorio Armeno was that the nuns let me see the ampoule after the mass. They are so kind there.

    @Toni & @Liliana: I agree. Once I left the possible, impossible, and unexpected fears behind, the community spirit filled me with wonder.

    @Cecil & @Monica: Looking forward to your visit and yes, hoping for the next miracle of sane Naples traffic… but I must admit, I’m a doubting Thomas on that one. :)

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  5. Forget the chaos, we all have a lesson to learn from that incredible humanity that is the heart and soul of Naples.
    Awesome church!I didn’t know about Santa Patrizia.

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  6. Barbara, grazie mille. Along with San Gregorio Armenio, ther’s Santa Chiara too — both offer miracles of green & quiet in the heart of the oldest & most densely populated city blocks in Europe.

    Forgive me, but I want to add that my Naples novel EARTHQUAKE I.D. includes a good deal of meditation on the *ogetti votivi* of those chapels.

    Oh, & who would drive to these churches? You walk, of course. Complimenti ancora, John

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  7. Anne Robichaud

    Santa Patrizia? Thanks for the new revelation, Barbara – as this gives me another reason to return to Naples (though i never seem to need an excuse….!)
    Grazie mille.

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  8. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Splendid piece of prose, Barbara, on our favourite Italian city. Complimenti!

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  9. Diane Vitale

    I have been trying to get information about St. Giuseppe Moscati I have seen the DVD but I don’t see any books. I learned about St. Giuseppe by accident and I have prayed he would intercede for me as I was diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disease of which there is no cure. My doctor wanted to operate and remove a gland that possibly would pit me in remission. I didn’t have the sirgery. I was so happy. I didn’t want it and the doctors decided I no longer need it. I am Italian American and some of my family are from Naples. So I feel close to this saint. I have been to Italy but at that time I didn’t know anything about him.
    I would love to have a prayer card with a relic of St. Giuseppe but I don’t know where I can get it. Do you know who I can contact or where I can find more information on him and where I can get a relic card? Thank you.

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