Inside the High Altar is the most precious treasure: at the back of it in fact there is the strong-box where the ampoules with the blood of St. Januarius are kept. The silver altarpiece lining the front is a unique work, one of the masterpieces of Neapolitan Baroque which portrays the return of the saint’s bones to Naples in January 1497.
In the folds of a theatre set, the story of St. Januarius is mingled with scenes of life, faith and theological messages to create a dynamic whole where its author, Giandomenico Vinaccia, is portrayed not once but twice.
He is the small figure on the right who is greeting us as if from a stage, and also the figure with the glasses which were typical of silversmiths.
At the top St. Januarius, surrounded by flying angels, looks down at us. At the centre on horseback, Cardinal Alessando Carafa is carrying a coffer with the bones of St. Januarius’ body, forcibly removed from the monastery of Montevergine. No less important is the scene of St. Januarius protecting Naples from the fury of Vesuvius, as happened on 16 December 1631 when the lava flow came to a halt before the blood and bust of St. Januarius at the gates of Naples, thus saving the town.