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main index © Jeff Matthews entry Jan. 2009
Everything is related to Naples
Number 16 in this series. Link to all items here.
Two Saints and Call
Me in the Morning.
other is Sant'Aspreno
al Porto on the other side of the old
city off of what is now the wide main street,
Corso Umberto. Historically, this church is more
interesting than the other one, since the origins,
they say, go back to the first century A.D; that
is, it was the home of Aspren, himself, where he lived when
he met Peter when the Apostle stopped in Naples on the
way to Rome. Indeed, Aspren is said to have been
converted by Peter, himself. The site is
documented as a church as early as the eighth
century; it was rebuilt in the 17th century. The
urban renewal of Naples, the risanamento,
in the 1890s led to the church being incorporated
into the side of the new Stock Exchange building.
As a house of worship, it is closed; it is open to
sight-seers only occasionally. It holds a number
of salvaged bits and pieces of another
paleo-Christian church, nearby San Pietro ad Aram, part
of which was torn down during the risanamento.
So far, nothing
strange—interesting buildings with an historic
link to paleo-Christianity in Naples.
hold on. It turns out that in Roman Catholic
hagiology, St. Aspren is the one that you invoke
in order to get rid of a headache! How can this
be? Aspren? Aspirin? Aspirin is a brand name for
(!) pain-killer, acetylsalicylic acid; the name Aspirin was
invented by the Bayer corporation in Germany and
first marketed in 1899. How can something as
similar-sounding as "Aspren"—the first bishop of
Naples—also be the name of a
saint you call on when you have a headache? How
can this be a coincidence? I don't think I buy the
official etymology of A (for Acetly-) plus -spir (from Spirsäure—German for meadowsweet,
the plant from which the drug is derived) plus -IN (to make it
sound like a medicine.) Perhaps...
2683 of the Roman Catholic Catechism tell us that
...contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth...[and that]... intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world...Thus most ailments and misfortunes have a saint you can turn to for intercession: Bernardino of Siena for lung problems, Deicolus for childhood diseases, Epipodius for victims of betrayal or torture, etc. There are many hundreds.
Whom should I call? I imagine—but don't know—that there is an office in the Vatican that determines what saint gets invoked for what ailment. I want to know if there is also a section of that office reserved for mischievous saint-choosers with way too much time on their hands. I mean, how long can there have been a saint for headaches, anyway! Maybe 1899?
the Vatican, 1899. Two monks, Fra Luigi and Fra
Guido, are doing the crossword puzzle in the
I think I'm getting a headache.
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