Catholic Cults and Devotions: A Psychological Inquiry

By Michael P. Carroll | Go to book overview

APPENDIX C
Three Blood Relics Still
Liquefying

Apart from the Januarius relic at the Tesoro, I know of only three blood relics that continue to liquefy. Although a few English-language accounts of these relics are available, none published since Grant's ( 1929) account have been written by anyone who has actually seen them. For this reason it seems worthwhile to record here my own encounter with these relics during a visit to Naples in August 1987.


THE RELIC OF ST PATRICIA

There seems to be a widely prevalent view that Naples is somehow more unsafe than other cities. The result is that while thousands of tourists pass through Naples on the way to Pompeii and Herculaneum, only a relatively small number stop to see the city itself. This is unfortunate. Nothing in my own experience suggests that Naples is any more or less unsafe than other cities of comparable size in Europe or North America, and those who bypass Naples are missing one of the great combinations of geography and civilization to be found anywhere in Europe.

Naples is a city steeped in the Catholic traditions distinctive of southern Italy and a home to countless churches. One of these churches, located in the old section of Naples about midway between the Duomo and the church of Santa Chiara, is the convent church of San Gregorio Armeno. Unlike many of the other churches in Naples, which were heavily damaged during the Second World War and whose interiors are now relatively sparse, the interior of San Gregorio Armeno — though decaying a little — is a baroque explosion of gilt-covered ceilings and walls. Although the church does not seem to contain individual pieces of art which earn much praise from guidebook authors (thus ensuring that it attracts hardly any of those few tourists who do visit Naples) the effect of the paintings and statues set amongst the gilt-encrusted interior is quite impressive.

But appearances aside, this particular church is important because it contains both the body of St Patricia (Santa Patrizia) and a relic of this saint's blood. (For the traditions surrounding this blood relic, see chapter 4.) This particular blood relic liquefies

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