The Year of St. Blaise
According to legend, back in 972 AD, invading Venetians found themselves before the walls of the majestic city of Dubrovnik with the intention of conquering it overnight. However, their efforts stifled thanks to an apparition from St. Blaise to the then parish priest Stojko, subsequently the city was successfully defended and St. Blaise had become its official patron saint.
From then on churches dedicated to St. Blaise began to spring up across the entire Dubrovnik region, reminding people of his background, contribution and most of all giving thanks for his intervention. Statues of St. Blaise were erected around Dubrovnik buildings, walls and gates. After Dubrovnik had gained its independence in 1358, much emphasis was assigned to placing statues and replicas of the saint in public buildings and areas. The largest number of sculptures was placed around the ring of the city walls, which symbolically reinforced their protective role. Inside the city, statues were erected on administration buildings; his image had adorned many manuscripts, charters and sailing permits, but also appeared on money, seals and flags. St. Blaise’s character was a reminder of commitment and responsibility, the so called duty of any citizen and he was therefore placed on the first page of the Dubrovnik Statute as well as on the stamps used for labelling criminals. His image of sitting on a throne and sending his blessing was a unifying message of heavenly protection with that of justice and self-consciousness to the city’s authorities.
St. Blaise the martyr is known in other regions of Croatia as Blaž, or Sanctus Blasius in Latin. He was born in the town of Elaiussa Sebaste in former Armenia Minor that was ruled by Rome, and which is the present-day city of Sivas in central Turkey. The people and clergy elected him for bishop after the death of his predecessor. It is said that during the persecution of Christians, this bishop of Elaiussa Sebaste was hiding in the mountains of Cappadocia and chose a lonely and dark cave for his home from which he carefully went out only at night to share comfort and help tortured and unhappy Christians. God gave him the power to become a friend of the wild beasts and they would bring him food, whilst he would heal them in return. By order of the then Roman governor Agricola, the Bishop was caught and convicted to the most serious suffering for not renouncing his faith, and was finally murdered in February of 317 AD.