Early History

Naples, 305 A.D.

The Feast of San Gennaro traces all the way back to this year.  Saint Januarius, who was Bishop of Naples, lived during a time where Christianity was still hidden and not openly practiced.  The Roman Empire executed Christians soon after it found them.  Saint Januarius or as called by Italians: San Gennaro, was no exception.  He was tortured and then beheaded.  Before being buried, a vial of blood was taken from San Gennaro’s body1.

From then on, every first Sunday in May (the day his remains were transferred to the church) and September 19th (the day of his death), something very special happens with Gennaro’s blood, now stored in two vials.  The blood in each of the vials liquefies or turns into liquid form and expands.  This is the miracle2.

Confirmed by scientists, they are still split as to the cause of the liquefication on an exact date while Neapolitans consider September 19th as a religious holiday.

More then a millennia and a half later, on the back of Italian Immigration to the United States, the Feast of San Gennaro started right on Mulberry Street, Manhattan.  The first festival took place in 1926 when one Italian immigrant: Alexander Tisi “got together with other Neapolitans, slaughtered some chickens, closed off the streets of Little Italy and marched in honor of the patron saint of Naples3.”  From then on the feast took off.  Even politicians began using San Gennaro as a tool for photo-ops to appear in their campaigns.

The feast in New York City quickly grew into something very different from the small holiday in the homeland.

  1. Auriti, Sabbia. “San Gennaro – The Patron Saint of Naples and Little Italy, NYC.” Welcome To Little Italy – Brought to You by the Little Italy Merchants Association. Web. 18 May 2011. <http://www.littleitalynyconline.com/history1-content.htm>.
  2. Auriti, Sabbia. “San Gennaro – The Patron Saint of Naples and Little Italy, NYC.” Welcome To Little Italy – Brought to You by the Little Italy Merchants Association. Web. 18 May 2011. <http://www.littleitalynyconline.com/history1-content.htm>..
  3. Goldman, Ari L. “San Gennaro Leads A Parade Of Festivals.” New York Times 10 Sept. 1982. New York Times (1851-2006). Web..

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