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  • Writer's pictureBrina

Celebrating St. Blaise (Sveti Vlaho), the patron of Dubrovnik

The 3. February is a festive day in Dubrovnik and the area. On that day we celebrate our strong and beautiful city full of history, wisdom and life, and we honor its patron St. Blaise or as we call him here, "Sveti Vlaho".

St. Blaise was the bishop of Sebastea, historical Armenia, who was beaten and beheaded in 317 AD after being persecuted by the Roman emperor. He dedicated his life to curing physically and mentally ill people, and also animals. St. Blaise quickly became known as a man of high virtues who was not only a good preacher, but was also setting an example by his own good deeds, and was even able to perform miracles.

Today St. Blaise is remembered and celebrated by millions of Christians around the world. He is the patron of builders and wool workers, stonecutters and carvers, of animals and veterinarians.

St. Blaise on Dubrovnik's flag. Image source: Wikipedia.

According to an old legend, in the beginning of the 6th century the residents of the ancient city of Epidaurum went on to rebuild their life on the desert island of Rhagusum, after majestic Epidaurum was destroyed in an earthquake.

Life on Rhagusum was tough: harsh weather conditions, with the sea and the rocky terrain on one side, and a deep forest on the other side, presented countless every day survival challenges to the new population. But the first Rhagusans didn't give up, they worked hard and tirelessly, were determined and united in their efforts to build their new home on the Adriatic. A small community emerged on the mainland, too, and subsequently the island and the mainland inhabitants merged their settlements after filling the sea inlet with sediment and soil. Dubrovnik emerged. The city quickly developed and became stronger and richer, and so started to attract the attention of its rival neighbors.

In 972 AD the Venetians plotted an invasion against Dubrovnik. On their way to the Levant and under the pretext of seeking rest and getting food and water supplies, they docked their ships at Lokrum island and in Gruž (Does the area name ring a bell? That's right, our apartment in Dubrovnik is located in Gruž, right above the port).

According to the legend, St. Blaise then appeared to а priest named Stojko, as an ordinary old man, with a long beard and holding a walking stick. St. Blaise warned the priest about the secret plans of the Venetians. Stojko then rushed to inform the senate and Dubrovnik was saved.

The citizens of Dubrovnik celebrate St. Blaise as their city's patron ever since. Every year on the 3. February people of the Rhagusa Republic gathered in the City for the feast, and whoever was not able to come, celebrated in their homes. Even convicts and exiles were given first four days before and four days after the date, later seven days before and seven days after, so they could take part in the celebration. It has been the one exceptional day of the year that reminded all Rhagusans of the miraculous help they got from a saint.

The state's remarkable lawful protection of fair and open business practices, the highly valued principles of equality and respect among the citizens of Dubrovnik were celebrated on that day.

Today on the 3. February we continue to gather in the Old City and to honor our patron St. Blaise, just as our ancestors did in the far 972. In 2009 our tradition was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This year we were not lucky and could not go to Dubrovnik. We've been having quite strong winds here for the past couple of days, and no ships have been yet coming to or going from Šipan.

Today we are staying at home, enjoying a lazy Sunday with chocolate pancakes, and are watching on the TV today's mass in Dubrovnik's St. Blaise church.

For more information about today's planned festivities, please check the related section on the web site of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board here.

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