Disaster averted: Saint's blood liquefies on time

Thousands of Neapolitans crowded the Italian city of Naples’s cathedral on Monday to see what they believe to be the dried blood of their patron saint liquefy in a glass vial.

The alleged “miracle”, which has been taking place almost without fail for centuries, is seen as a sign that San Gennaro (Saint Januarius) still loves them.

In a ceremony attended by the city’s mayor and thousands of Roman Catholic faithful, Cardinal Michele Giordano held up the glass vial and swirled around the dark red liquid inside for all to see.

Prolonged applause greeted the liquefaction, which is seen as a good omen by superstitious Neapolitans.

“The miracle certainly represents a message of hope. It is a sign that San Gennaro continues to protect our city,” said Naples mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino, a practising Catholic.

Failure to liquefy is believed to bring about disasters, such as in 1980, when 3 000 people died in an earthquake that devastated southern Italy.

While acknowledging that the substance in the glass container is indeed blood, many scientists argue that the miracle is caused by the shaking of the glass container or by the warmth of the hands that hold it.

Scientists call the process thixotropy, whereby the viscosity of a thixotropic liquid increases if left unstirred and decreases if stirred or moved.

The so-called San Gennaro miracle usually takes place on the saint’s feast day, which falls on September 19, and on two other occasions each year—December 16 and the Saturday before the first Sunday of May.—Sapa-DPA

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