And you thought 2016 was a rough year. Humanity is apparently in for a disaster equal to World War II or a cholera epidemic, based on an ancient vial of blood. According to legend, a woman collected the blood of Saint Januarius, or San Gennaro—the once pious bishop of Naples who was beheaded as Christianity was under attack around AD 305—and preserved it in a glass vial, reports Seeker. Then a "blood miracle" in 1389: the congealed blood liquefied. The archbishop of Naples now performs this "blood miracle," shaking the vial in front of thousands until the blood liquefies, on three significant days each year, the most recent of which should have been Dec. 16. (Mount Vesuvius erupted on that day in 1631, and Naples was said to have been protected by the saint.) And yet last week, it didn't.
One website claims that when the blood miracle—which is "not quite sanctioned by the Catholic Church," per the Week—has failed to work, 22 epidemics, 19 earthquakes, four wars, and various other tragedies have followed. When the blood last failed to liquefy in 1980, an earthquake struck 30 miles from Naples, killing 2,400 people. The blood also remained congealed in 1939, the year World War II began. But "we must not think of calamities," says the local abbot, per the Catholic News Agency. "We are men of faith and we must pray." As for what men of science think, the New York Times in 1991 reported on a study that suggested medieval chemists could have created artificial blood that would liquefy upon shaking. The scientists noted the church wouldn't allow the vial to be opened and analyzed. (The blood partially liquefied for Pope Francis.)