Saint Blaise, the protector of Dubrovnik

During medieval times states and cities usually had their own patron saint. Such saints were prayed to, churches were built to honor them and in the hardest of times people relied on their help and guidance.

Dubrovnik worshiped old saints, Srđ and Bachus, therefore the mountain above Dubrovnik was named Srđ. The citizens of Dubrovnik built a votive church on this hill, whose foundations today are under the fortress Imperial erected at the beginning of the 10th C during the French occupation ( the fort is reachable today by a cable car departing just outside Old Town Dubrovnik).

The legend about how St. Blaise was chosen as the new heavenly protector of Dubrovnik starts in 972. and Venetian ships arriving and anchoring near Island Lokrum in front of Old Town Dubrovnik. With the explanation that they were traveling eastwards they were permitted by city authorities to purchase food and refill their supply of fresh water.

However, one night the parish priest of the church of St. Stephen on Pustjerna, don Stojko, felt a strange call and set down the sleepy streets to pray in front of the altar. The church was open and lit in the middle of the night. At the altar, there was a gray old man in bishop's attire, with troops of a heavenly army around him.

He spoke to don Stojko wit the words that he was Blaise, he martyr from Sebasta (town in Asia Minor, today’s Sivas in Turkey), and that he choose to defend Dubrovnik, which would be attacked by the Venetians the following day. He asked Stojko to seek help with the city fathers because the stranglehold around the city was tightening. The army was stealing upon the city by land, and his powers could not completely protect the houses and inhabitants. On the following morning this message was passed to the city authorities who immediately closed all gates, armed the walls. The enemy, realizing that the surprise factor was gone and that they would not be able to conquer Dubrovnik, turned back in great anger and disappointment.

From that day on, citizens of Dubrovnik worshiped the new patron, for whom they build a church the following year, located in the middle of today’s Old Town Dubrovnik. His figure as a bishop with a mitre and staff was carved in Stone and put on all important administrative and merchant buildings. Soon after, his image was also copied on the state seal, ship flags and coins, including protecting every important building with the statue of St. Blaise. 27 of them still protect the more important edifices. Most of the statues picture St Blaise standing, a few of them hold the City in their right hand, and the rest of them in their left hand.

Therefore, the most important feast day in Dubrovnik is the celebration of St. Blaise when all flags from surrounding churches gather at the square in the morning, and a special ceremony called waving the flags“ takes place.

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