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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Januarius, Saint (Italian: San Gennaro, A.D.?-305) Bishop of Benevento, a town thirty-five miles northeast of Naples, Italy, Saint Januarius is the patron saint of Naples. It is said that he was martyred by beheading and an enterprising local salvaged some of his blood.

Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples.

      Beginning in 1389, a ceremony has been performed during May, September, and December in which this dried blood, in a glass reliquary, is carried about by an archbishop and at a proper moment it is shaken. If all is well, the blood liquifies and the audience is reassured. If not, it portends evil.
      Along with a colleague, Dr. Luigi Garlaschelli of the Department of Organic Chemistry at the University of Pavia has concocted a mixture of volcanic earth (Vesuvius is a few miles from Benevento) and other simple substances that were available in medieval times, to form a gel that is thixotropic, which means that it liquifies when jarred or shaken. It very much resembles blood in color. Since no one is allowed to examine or test the “blood” of Saint Januarius, it is not difficult to believe that it is a similar mixture.

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