May 6, 2014

Napoli's treasure is mine

Although I would argue that I have found Napoli's treasure by marrying my wonderful husband, this is not what the current exhibition at the Museum Maillol was all about.

May 1st is France's Labour Day and therefore is a public holiday. After having suggested a day's outing to a nearby Chateau de Vaux de Vicomte, Chateau Chantilly or Chateau Fontainebleau and receiving nothing but moans by my kids, I decided to find an activity that might just catch their imagination and would not be too far out of town.

I came up with the treasure of San Gennaro, shown for the first time outside Italy. One of the largest collections of jewellery in the world, the San Gennaro treasure is comparable with the crown jewels of France and England, but rather than belonging to the former ruling dynasties, the State or the Church, the treasure belongs to the people, to the Neapolitans themselves.

San Gennaro, the principal patron saint of Naples (there are 52 of them), was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian. The saint’s blood, collected in two ampoules, liquefies three times a year - this has happened on the same dates for centuries - a phenomenon that science, even today, cannot explain.

On 13 January 1527 an unusual contract was notarized between the people of Naples and the saint, who had been dead for over 1,200 years. In exchange for San Gennaro’s protection against the eruptions of Vesuvius and the plague, Neapolitans undertook to establish and keep a treasure in a chapel to be built in the cathedral and dedicated to him. Today this cult has lost none of its force. My husband can vouch for that.

The kids loved the stories their Papi had to tell about when he was a little boy and accompanied his parents to the celebrations of San Gennaro.

My first San Gennaro festivities were in Little Italy, New York but that is another story in itself... when I lost my heart to a Neapolitan!

The necklace of San Gennaro
Altar treasures
Bust of Sainte Irène
The Reliquary of San Gennaro out of town until May 15th due to celebrations in Napoli

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