Thursday, April 15, 2021

Saints for Today: Januarius, Bishop (late 3rd century)

Must Read

Annual Student Essay Content Winners Describe “Catholic Heroes and Heroines of the Southwest”

The eighth-grade winner examines the life of her grandmother, who fought for Pueblo water rights.

“Terror of Demons”: The Significance of the Year of St. Joseph

In this year of Saint Joseph, this title may well help us all to understand his particular patronage over the universal Church as well as his personal protection for all of us.

A History of the Spanish Colonists of San Mateo Parish

From several accounts, the village of San Mateo, New Mexico was founded in 1862. In the push of the...
Dr. Jean Lee
Jean M. Lee, M.A., D.Min., is a licensed behavioral health and substance abuse counselor, founding a nonprofit, state-licensed behavior health counseling agency and Christian gift/book store. Volunteer work includes: Jail ministry, Legion of Mary membership, door-to-door evangelization, and writing a weekly newspaper column titled “Faith and Inspiration: Encyclopedia of Saints for Today.” A Catholic revert after 32 years away from the Church, she is devout in the Catholic faith, loves the saints, and lives a deeper spiritual/religious and more joyful life since returning to the Church.

Feast Day: September 19

Januarius was the bishop of Benevento, Italy, and was beheaded during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian (245-313). Those that perished with Januarius were Festus, his deacon; Desiderius, a lector; Sosius and Proculus, both deacons; and two laymen, Eutyches and Acutius. They were arrested while visiting Sossus, a Christian deacon and prisoner at Pozzuoli. Thrown to wild beasts who would not harm them, their captors then beheaded them.

Tradition says that after Januarius’s decapitation, his followers removed the remains and Christian women collected two vials of his blood and placed it in his tomb, as was the custom regarding martyrs. Today the vials of blood and the bones of the saint are enshrined in the Cathedral of Saint Januarius in Naples.

The miracle of liquefaction first took place in 1389 while a priest was holding the flasks during a procession, whereby the coagulated blood began to liquefy and bubble. In more recent years the liquefactions and viewings have taken place three times every year: September 19, believed to be the day Januarius was martyred; December 16, the anniversary of the day the intercession of the saint saved Naples from an eruption of Mount Vesuvius; and the commemoration of the translation, or removal of Saint Januarius’s relics from his tomb to a shrine, which is celebrated on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May.


On each of these occasions, a silver portrait bust of Saint Januarius containing his skull is placed upon the altar and a glass vial containing Saint Januarius’s blood is given to the presiding prelate, usually the archbishop of Naples. The vial, measuring about four inches high and two and a quarter inches in diameter, is set in a metal reliquary. Through the glass, one can see that the vial is a little more than half-full of a solid, dark red mass. The archbishop carries the reliquary of the blood to the altar, holding it next to the silver bust of the saint. The miracle in which the solid mass becomes liquid has been known to occur in anything from two minutes to an hour. At the moment of liquefaction the archbishop exclaims, “The miracle has happened!” at which point the congregation sings the hymn of thanksgiving, “Te Deum.”

The liquefaction presents a puzzle to those who have studied it since it takes place under diverse circumstances and physical conditions. Sceptics have also wondered if the substance in the vial is real blood. Constant tradition has maintained that it is real blood, a fact that is confirmed by documents that are impossible to refute. Scientific examination has also confirmed this, especially when Professor Sperindeo was permitted to pass spectroscopic beams of light through the liquefied material. This test yielded the distinctive lines of the spectrum of blood with the characteristics of hemoglobin.

The liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius has occurred for over 600 years. Concerning these occurrences, so far no natural explanation has been found. It clearly remains a challenge to the skeptic, a mystery to the scientific community and a true phenomenon.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Bunson, Matthew, Margaret Bunson, and Stephen Bunson. “Encyclopedia of Saints-Revised.” Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003.
Craughwell, Thomas J. “Saints Preserved-An Encyclopedia of Relics.” New York, NY: Image Books, 2011.
Cruz, Joan Carroll. “Mysteries Marvels Miracles in the Lives of the Saints.” Charlotte: TAN Books, 1997.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest News

Annual Student Essay Content Winners Describe “Catholic Heroes and Heroines of the Southwest”

The eighth-grade winner examines the life of her grandmother, who fought for Pueblo water rights.


Other recent stories:

Is it still worth it to be a Catholic priest?

In 2002, I heard the call to become a priest. That was the year that the Boston Globe first ran articles about the clerical sex abuse crisis.

The Year of St. Joseph: What Catholics Should Know

In this episode, Bishop Wall examines the historic and spiritual impact of St. Joseph on the Catholic Church, and how Catholics can start or strengthen a devotion to the saint.

15 ways to gain an indulgence in the Year of St. Joseph

These acts must be accompanied by sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the pope’s intentions, the usual conditions to obtain any plenary indulgence.

Faith in Action Today: How the Donors to the Diocesan Annual Appeal Gave Back in 2020

With so many organizations and people still grappling with the economic and medical struggles brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be easy...


More Articles Like This