St. Blaise (Sveti Vlaho), the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik, has been celebrated every year on February 2 and 3 for over 1000 years. This religious festival is classified as intangible heritage by UNESCO since 2009.
Origins and stories about Saint Blaise
Saint Blaise was an Armenian martyr in the 4th century. In 971, he appeared to the inhabitants of Dubrovnik floating in the air to warn them of an imminent attack from Venice. Since 972, Saint Blaise is celebrated every year. Croatians call the event “festa Sveti Vlaho“.
During the celebrations of St. Blaise, a special immunity was granted for a few days to people in debt and in trouble with the city administration. The “franchisia” allowed these people to join the festivities without being bothered.
The first relics date from the very beginning of the 10th century. An arm bone, a skull, and even Jesus’ swaddling clothes are the main sacred items.
February 2, the day of Our Lady of Kandelora
It all begins with the opening of the city gates and the firing of traditional rifles to warn the people of the beginning of the festival. A release of doves follows during the prayer to represent the city’s insubordination through the centuries. The local people then march in a parade, dressed in traditional clothes, and finally head towards the church of Saint Blaise.
This is when the faithful perform the ritual known as “healing the throat”. The purpose of this ritual is to preserve the health of those who participate for the coming year. White flags, symbols of freedom, are displayed in honor of Saint Blaise. Banners in honor of the patron saint are hoisted on the Orlando column.
February 3, Saint Blaise’s Day
A mass is first celebrated in front of the cathedral. A procession takes place in the old town in front of a crowd of faithful dressed in their most beautiful traditional ornaments. The religious representatives march while showing the relics of Saint Blaise after the banner bearers have led the way through the crowd. Small gifts are then given out by the nuns who are committed to serving the sick and the poor.
The rest of the day is filled with cultural activities and then at night the main street lights up and comes alive.