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Holy Relics: Ancient Religious Artifacts With Power ?

Religious Artifact of San Gennaro

Among all the miraculous antique religious artifacts with power, that of the patron saint of Naples, Saint Januarius (San Gennaro), holds a special place. Its miraculous manifestations indeed seem to be linked to the political events shaking the great city and the rest of Italy.

A relic that announces great catastrophes

Tradition makes Saint Januarius a bishop of Benevento martyred under the reign of Diocletian, in 305, in Pozzuoli. The wild beasts supposed to devour him having spared him, he had to be beheaded. Some of his blood would then have been collected by his nurse and placed in two vials. Part of the body, the head and the vials were reportedly taken to Naples.

The first liquefaction of blood recorded by a chronicler takes place in 1389, and the first appearance of the miracle seems to date back to only 1337. The event then recurs with great regularity: every Saturday preceding the first Sunday in May (anniversary of the transfer of the relics to the catacombs of Capodimonte) and September 19, the anniversary of the saint's death. But the blood does not liquefy when disastrous events are brewing. This singular power makes this antique religious relic a special case - a kind of detonator for the people, who see in the absence of the miracle the sign of a disavowal of the saint or the sign of an imminent calamity. This explains the attention paid to the phenomenon by the authorities in place.

Some illustrations

For example, the miracle does not occur in 1527 during the Sack of Rome by the Duke of Bourbon. In 1702, the blood was only half liquefied when Philip V of Spain came to take possession of the crown of the Two Sicilies. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), when the French occupied Naples, the Archbishop had to be discreetly threatened with hanging for the miracle to take place. In April 1799, the French established again in Naples and the people agitated, the local government imagines to cause, this time, the miracle to occur in the month of April, that is to say outside the usual dates. Liquefaction is slow and Cardinal Zurlo suddenly finds himself facing a pistol concealed by the waistcoat of the President of the Neapolitan government. Once again, the threat of death takes hold and the contents of the vial change appearance. The people see in it the adhesion of Saint Januarius to the Revolution. Conversely, the saintly "sulks" without remedy Pope Pius IX, who came to witness the miracle of the liquefaction of blood in 1849.

A chemical mixture?

The explanation for the periodic return of the blood of Saint Januarius to fluidity is very uncertain. One can see, according to his convictions, either a true miracle or the use of a product reacting to the opening of a valve allowing the entry of the air in the reliquary.

Spectroscopic analyzes, carried out in 1902 and again in 1989, showed the presence of hemoglobin, which does not mean that there is only blood in the bulbs. In 1991, three researchers from the University of Pavia reproduced the miracle using a gelatinous solution sensitive to mechanical movements and composed according to methods and means available in the Middle Ages. But, if the transformation is the result of a subterfuge reproducible at will, why, again in 1976, the saint's blood refused to liquefy, despite eight days of invocations and various "manipulations"? It will indeed be impossible to know the final word until the Neapolitans agree to let the precious vials, which have remained sealed since the 14th century, be unsealed so that their contents can be analyzed.

But the very state of the bulbs, which makes the operation very delicate, and perhaps the legitimate prudence of the Church - which, if it has never denied either - make this operation at least very hypothetical.

Relics galore ...

Ancient catholic relics in excess

In 1982, an investigation by the Italian daily La Repubblica determined that there were ten skulls of Saint John the Baptist, eighteen arms of the apostle James and enough to reconstruct some twenty skeletons of Saint George, all recognized as authentic by the Church. We have also identified more than 1,150 places housing one or more fragments of the True Cross.

Jesus

Artifacts attributed to Christ lend themselves to the most astonishing statistics. Thus, several umbilical cords and several foreskin of Jesus were worshiped. Churches possessed the milk teeth of the Son of God, but also of his holy tears, two vessels preserved his breath and Christian establishments exhibited “letters” of the Savior that fell from heaven.

Mary

The Mother of Jesus scattered so many drops of her milk to the four corners of the earth that Calvin could say that she would have had to feed all her life to achieve this.

Joseph and the Holy Spirit

The Protestant poet Agrippa d’Aubigné reports that the Huguenots broke, during the Wars of Religion in Périgueux, a vial containing ... a sneeze of the Holy Spirit! Only a small church near Blois, France, can still pit a serious competitor against this “relic” with its han! From Saint Joseph, pushed while he was splitting wood ...