Treasure trove of Neapolitan jewels shown in rare Rome exhibition

Tue Oct 29, 2013 12:36pm EDT
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By Naomi O'Leary

ROME (Reuters) - A rarely seen Neapolitan collection of sumptuous jewellery, hidden away for centuries and estimated to be more valuable than England's crown jewels, opened in Rome on Tuesday.

The "Treasure of San Gennaro", precious objects donated in tribute to the patron saint of Naples, has rarely left the southern Italian city and spent centuries locked in a vault, largely forgotten by the wider world.

The 70 pieces were transported under heavily armed guard to a central Rome museum earlier this month and will be on display until February.

Known in English as Januarius, the bishop of Naples was martyred in the 3rd century and remains popular among Catholics.

Thousands gather three times a year to see whether a vial of his coagulated blood will turn to liquid, which they believe to be a miracle bringing good fortune to the city.

Some Neapolitans attribute a 1980 earthquake that killed thousands to the failure of the dried blood to liquefy but skeptics say the liquefaction could be brought about by shaking or heat from hands holding the vial.

In the 1520s when Naples was struggling with plague, war and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, surviving citizens pledged to build a chapel for the saint in return for his protection.

The vow was put in writing by a lawyer, and the original 1527 document is on display at the exhibition entrance in the Fondazione Roma-Museo.   Continued...

A replica of the reliquary bust of San Gennaro is seen during the 'Treasure of San Gennaro' exhibition in Rome October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: SOCIETY)