San Gennaro

Background 

Hagiography & Miracle 

It is said that San Gennaro was the Bishop of Benevento, incidentally a region famous for producing two things: witches and Liquore Strega. He was martyred by Emperor Diocletian in 305 AD, beheaded at the Solfatara crater at Pozzuoli. His head is now encased in an iconic silver bust.

According to legend, his wetnurse, a slave named Eusebia, gathered some of his blood from the site of his execution. In 1389, that blood began to liquify: first erratically, then regularly. Many devotees believe that when the blood fails to liquify, a disaster is soon to follow. For example, the blood failed to become liquid in 1939, the year in which World War II started; and in 1980, the year of the Irpinia earthquake which left at least 2,483 people dead, 7,700 injured, and 250,000 homeless. 

The tomb of San Gennaro, seen from above, in the Catacombs of San Gennaro in Naples

The tomb of San Gennaro, seen from above, in the Catacombs of San Gennaro in Naples

Heraldry 

Vials of blood, Mt. Vesuvius, bishop's dress, pastoral staff

Feast Days 

For many years, the blood miracle was overseen by a mysterious group of elderly women known as the parenti di San Gennaro, “the relatives of San Gennaro”. Popular belief held that these women had descended from Eusebia herself, and that it was their rituals performed within the church but without the interference of church officials that were responsible for ensuring the continuation of the miracle. They were also responsible for divining possible threats to the homeland, with auguries relevant to different audiences depending on the time of year: 

  • First Sunday in May - divined for the city of Naples;
  • September 19 - his official feast day, divined for the whole country of Italy; 
  • December 16 - the least reliable of the miracles. 

The video below shows footage from the September feast in 1948: 

Songs & Prayers 

Rosary of the Parenti 

These lines can be sung as a rosary. The first two strophes can be sung in place of the Ave Maria, and the last line in place of the Gloria at the end of the decade. 

Neapolitan

San Gennaro mio putente
Prega a Dio pe’ tanta gente. 

San Gennaro mio prutettore
Prega a Dio nostro Signore. 

Ringrazziammo la Santissima Ternità che ci ha dato San Gennaro pe’ Pate e Prutettore ‘e stà città. 

English translation 

San Gennaro, my powerful one
Pray to God for so many people

San Gennaro, my protector
Pray to God, our Lord

We thank the Holy Trinity who has given us San Gennaro as Father and Protector of this city. 

Faccia Gialla by Enzo Avitabile 

Enzo Avitabile is a master of Southern Italian folk music. This song of his reflects a modern take on the relationship between Neapolitans and San Gennaro. "Faccia Gialla" ("Yellow Face") is a friendly insult used with the saint by his devotees. 

Neapolitan lyrics 

Mièzo all’addore da solfatara
‘ngopp ‘a na preta sotto a na spada
duorme Pozzuoli suonni arrubbati
da coppo ‘a muntagna fino ‘o mare
è sango e nun è acqua
è sango e nun è acqua

sotto a n’editto ‘e n’imperatore
catacombe e persecuzioni
Tu nobile vescovo ‘e Benevento
nu filo d’evera contro ‘o viento

è sango e nun è acqua
è sango e nun è acqua

Faccia Gialla squaglialo!
fallo fallo stu miracolo
Faccia Gialla squaglialo!
fallo fallo pe stu popolo
chella vota c’a vedetteme nera
sissantamila muorte ‘d culera
bello e buono ‘e turchi nà sera
pò nata vota fuie famma e a sete

è sango e nun è acqua
è sango e nun è acqua

Faccia Gialla squaglialo!
fallo fallo stu miracolo
Faccia Gialla squaglialo!
fallo fallo pe stu popolo

è sango e nun è acqua
è sango e nun è acqua

English translation

Amidst the small of Solfatara
On top of a stone, under a sword
Sleep, people of Pozzuoli, stolen dreams
From the top of the mountain up to the sea 

It’s blood, not water
It’s blood, not water 

Under an emperor’s edict
Catacombs and persecutions
You, noble bishop of Benevento, 
Blade of grass against the wind

It’s blood, not water
It’s blood, not water

Yellow Face, melt it! 
Do it do it this miracle
Yellow Face, melt it! 
Do it do it for this people
That time we saw black
60,000 dead from cholera
All of the sudden, the Turks one evening
Then another time there was hunger and thirst 

It’s blood, not water
It’s blood, not water

Yellow Face, melt it! 
Do it do it this miracle
Yellow Face, melt it! 
Do it do it for this people 

It’s blood, not water
It’s blood, not water