Every Tuesday morning at the San Gregorio Armeno Church, Saint Patricia’s blood liquifies after the 9:30 a.m. service. She is the patroness saint of Naples and her remains as well as a tooth and a wax imitation of her body lie inside a coffin at a side altar. In addition, during the Tuesday mass, the vial of her blood is hung on the left side of the front altar and is covered with a cloth. After the Eucharist, the priest lifts Saint Patricia’s blood from the hook, brings it to the middle of the altar, and worshipers stand in a line to kiss the receptacle. Inside it, one opaque vial has a discernible syrupy dark liquid.
Not much is known about Saint Patricia, her deeds transferred only orally throughout the centuries. According to the little cards given out at the church, she was born rich and noble in Constantinople during the seventh century. She was also a descendant of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. Wanting to lead a life of celibacy, she fled to Rome to avoid an arranged marriage. When her father died, Saint Patricia returned to Constantinople and gave all her inherited wealth to the poor. Thereafter, she embarked on a ship back to Rome, but a furious storm drove the vessel to the Bay of Naples, where she took shelter at the Castel dell’Ovo. With her friends, she decided to establish a prayer community in Naples and spent her life helping the needy of the city until her death in 665.
Further legend has it that her body was venerated for several centuries until, between 1198 and 1214, a knight wanted a memento from Saint Patricia and plucked out her tooth. An outpouring of blood came from the empty cavity, thereafter flowing at different periods of time. Calling it a miracle, nuns preserved some of this blood in two bulbous vials.
At the San Gregorio Armeno Church today, the “Sisters of Saint Patricia” help with the mass, take care of the cloister, and continue to venerate Saint Patricia’s remains. A large number of these nuns, interestingly, come from the Philippines.
On a more tongue in cheek note, the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, has his vial of blood at the Duomo, which liquifies every September 19th as well as the Saturday before the first Sunday in May. The blood of Saint Patricia, on the other hand, liquifies on her saint’s day of August 25th and each Tuesday after the morning mass, so Saint Patricia performs her miracle at least fifty-three times a year. All this definitively proves, once again, without a shadow of a doubt – that women work harder than men.
Getting There: San Gregorio Armeno Church is located at Via San Gregorio Armeno 44, affectionally known to most English speakers as Naples Christmas Alley. Make sure to go around the corner and visit the cloister, which has a beautiful courtyard. You can also browse the large selection of Christmas cribs – the Neapolitan presepe in the shops along this street.