France: Exposition on “The Treasure of Naples: the Jewels of San Gennaro”

Source: FSSPX News

For the first time, the Treasure of San Gennaro (St. Januarius) has left Italy to be presented in an exceptional exposition at the Maillol Museum, where the most important masterpieces created and accumulated over the centuries are displayed in Paris.

Between 1526 and 1527, the city of Naples suffered two scourges: war and the plague. In the face of these tragic events, the Neapolitans implored the protection of San Gennaro (St. Januarius), born in 270, bishop of Benevento, who died a martyr in 305 by Diocletian’s decreed, and is the patron saint of Naples. Thus on January 13, 1527, an unprecedented contract was established before a notary between the saint, who had been dead for over 1200 years, and the people of Naples, who promised in the person of the Deputation to prepare a new chapel in the cathedral to shelter his relics in exchange for his protection from the plague, the war and the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, and to create a treasury for him out of devotion. The precious objects placed in the chapel accumulated over the decades, a treasury made of the piety of kings as of the most humble. The saint’s blood, contained in two vials that have been kept with his relics in the cathedral of Naples ever since the end of the 15th century, becomes liquid three times a year, at the same dates. The reliquary of the martyr’s blood was made in gilt silver during the 14th century by silversmiths from Angers. A tableau recounts that in 1799, when the French occupied Naples under the command of General Macdonald, the miracle did not occur…

The Deputation, guardian of the chapel, is a lay institution created in 1601, one of the oldest and most original organizations still active in Italy. Made up of ten representatives of the nobility and two representatives of the people, it has guaranteed for the past four centuries the intangibility of the vials of blood and the holy relics, and the administration and care of the cult and treasure of San Gennaro.

The exposition begins with a series of paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries illustrating the history of the city and of its holy protector. The chapel of San Gennaro is then evoked by its decor, which includes “giare”, large ornamental vases that contain “frasche”, palms in bloom, made entirely out of silver. Then comes the gallery of the monumental silver busts of the saints declared “compatroni” of Naples. The religious orders, the parishes or the individuals who wanted a saint to become a compatrono had to order his reliquary statue in silver and offer it to the chapel’s treasury. The following section presents the royal gifts offered to the treasury chapel: chalices, ciboriums, monstrances, candelabras. The visit ends with two extraordinary pieces: the miter and collar of St. Januarius.

Practical information:
“The Treasure of Naples” until July 20, 2014.
Maillol Museum, 59-61 rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris.
Open every day from 10:30 to 19:00 (ticket office open until 18:15).
Night opening Fridays until 21:30 (ticket office open until 20:45).
Entry: 13€

(sources: muse Maillol/ tribune de l’art – DICI no.298 dated July 4, 2014)

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