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The Art of Devotion

A trip to Naples to see the treasure of the city's much-loved saint.

The Art of Devotion

In Naples, the "world's most famous miracle" or, more precisely, the liquefying of the blood of the beheaded San Gennaro (St. Januarius), occurs not one, not two, but three times a year: on the Saturday preceding the first Sunday of May, on the 19th of September and on the 16th of December. Three times a year, the population of Naples gathers to witness the liquefying of their patron saint's blood and, more often than not, three times they are, miraculously, obliged. This mixture of Catholic faith and pagan ritual expresses to perfection the complexity of the Neapolitan character.

Naples' Cathedral is an obligatory stop on any visit to this grand old Southern Italian city. Inside the Duomo is the monumental Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, built in the 1700's in recognition of the Saint's protection of the city during the plague. With an entrance next to the cathedral, the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro was created in 2003 to house the incredible amount of devotional artworks which make up the treasure, some of which have never previously been placed on public display. Silverware, precious stones, the frescoed sacristies by Luca Giordano and paintings by Domenichino and Stanzoni, are just some of the works which have been donated to the saint "ex voto" (in other words, to honor a vow made for grace received) by popes, kings, and anonymous members of the general public over the centuries.

The silver collection, features unique works by the Neapolitan School of silversmithing, dating from the early 1300's to the present day. The collection has remained intact for more than 500 years thanks to the protection of the "Deputazione della Real Cappella", a unique civic organization presided over by the city mayor. The museum route, accompanied by a commentary provided by the "relatives of St Gennaro", recorded in the alleyways of Naples, commences with the ostensory, the receptacle in which the Host is displayed to the congregation, donated by Charles of Anjou in 1305. On the third floor, the jewels of the treasure are displayed. This is considered to be one of the most precious collections of precious stones in the world, and has been compared to that of the Russian Tsars and the Crown Jewels of England. The exhibition is made all the more fascinating by the audiovisuals, which capture the soul of Naples by way of the voices and images of the city's inhabitants, recreating the emotional intensity of the processions which precede the "miracle".

Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro
Via Duomo, 149
Tel. +39 081 294980

Opening hours: weekdays 9.30-17 - weekends 09 - 14.30


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