Professor Luigi Garlaschelli of the University of Pavia, Italy,
there is nothing quite as exciting as having a miracle in one's
very own laboratory. The investigation of the miraculous blood
of Saint Januarius gives students an opportunity to do just that,
as well as to learn about dialysis, thixotrophy, and a bit of
spectroscopy. Furthermore, similar to some of the work on the
Shroud of Turin, the desire of the experimenters for positive
results has influenced the outcome of investigations into the
nature of the miracle blood.
The miraculous blood relic of Saint Januarius has undergone a transformation from solid to liquid when displayed by the Bishop of Naples, Italy on the Saint's feast days, three times a year, for the last 5 centuries. Since authorities will not allow the ampoule holding the relic to be opened for direct sampling of the relic, to see if it is really blood, any testing has to be done by external optical probing or by simulating the behavior of the miraculous blood. A number of scientists have attempted exactly that, with the most successful being Professor Garlaschelli, who, along with colleagues Franco Ramaccini and Sergio Della Salla, simulated the thixotropic behavior of the blood using what could have been an alchemical concoction of calcium carbonate and ferric chloride. Their blood behaves similarly to that of the miracle relic and can be easily and safely made in a general chemistry laboratory. The hyperlinked manuscript Better Blood Through Chemistry: Laboratory Replication of a Miracle describes the process in great detail as well as the history of the blood and some of the unscientific attempts at its validation.
Figure 1. The Miracle Blood of Saint Januarius
(A) Professor Bollone studies the blood relic with a spectroscope
(B) Professor Garlaschelli - click on the image for a collage showing Professor Garlaschelli in his laboratory, and the blood relic held by the Bishop of Naples
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Page prepared by: Mike Epstein
Last Modified: 30 April 1999