Long Live Saint Blaise! Dubrovnik Honours Patron Saint

Lauren Simmonds

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All images: Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

Dubrovnik’s patron saint and eternal protector is being celebrated in the Pearl of the Adriatic for the 1046th time.

Dubrovnik is the eternal city of tradition, culture, and history. Coupled with being a city of the arts, this shining combination makes Croatia’s tourist Mecca a unique, magical place, but could it ever have become what it is today without the spiritual protection of its beloved patron saint? As per tradition, Saint Blaise (Sveti Vlaho) has been being celebrated in Croatia’s southernmost city.

As is done annually, the City of Dubrovnik’s patron saint and arguably its most beloved figure has been being honoured in the Pearl of the Adriatic. For well over one thousand years, Dubrovnik has celebrated the feast day of Saint Blaise by staging one of the most impressive and iconic annual festivals in Europe, and indeed, the world: the Festivity of Saint Blaise (Festa svetoga Vlaha). The celebrations encompass the whole city and surrounding region, bringing everyone together. It is an event held dear to the hearts of locals and is the subject of great interest for tourists.

This more than impressive festival commemorates Saint Blaise’s salvation of Dubrovnik on the eve of a surprise attack in the now very distant year of 971. According to tradition, Saint Blaise’s miraculous intervention successfully thwarted a planned invasion of the city, and as an expression of gratitude, the residents of Dubrovnik embraced the saint’s cult, proclaiming him their patron saint and their eternal protector.

We’ve mentioned in several articles in the past that throughout history, particularly during the time of the Dubrovnik Republic (Ragusa), which existed as an autonomous state, entirely self-governed and very successful both diplomatically and socio-economically. The ideal positioning and the famed diplomacy of the Ragusans made them the arch Adriatic trade rival of the jealous Venetians to the north. Lacking in the diplomatic abilities possessed by the Ragusans, the Venetians would often use force, plotting numerous attempts to attack and invade the Republic and bring it to its knees over many years. Saint Blaise’s intervention in the foiling of the surprise Venetian attack, whose boats were already silently waiting outside the city walls, meant more to the city than could ever possibly be expressed, read more here.

Despite being so many years since the very beginnings of this tradition, it is still very much an intrinsic part of the city’s deep sense of not only culture and tradition, but identity. Saint Blaise’s likeness can be found all over Dubrovnik, watching over the city and its people, and is as much a part of Dubrovnik’s soul as the walls themselves. 

This year’s Festivity of Saint Blaise kicked off under grey skies and rain, but, as he is known for, the saint seemed to work his magic and stop the rain in order for the much loved processions in his honour to take place unhindered. Traditionally, at 10:00, in front of the Cathedral, began a solemn celebration that was led by Msgr. Dr. Ivan Devčić, Archbishop of Rijeka.

Numerous people gathered in front of the Cathedral, regardless of the already mentioned less than ideal weather conditions. The envoy of President of the Republic of Croatia Renata Margaretić Urlić, Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Minister Nina Obulje Korzinek, Parliament Speaker and Parliamentary Representative Branko Bačić, Dubrovnik’s Mayor Mato Franković, Secretary of State Frano Matušić, Marija Vučinović of Montenegro and many others also joined. Traditionally, the Dubrovacki Trombunjeri delighted all, read more about them here.

This, the 1046th Festivity of Saint Blaise will, however, be among the shortest to date, with Dubrovacki Dnevnik reporting that the annual festivities will come to an end today. 

At 09:00 in front of the Church of Saint Blaise at Gorica, the beginning of the end of the festivity will take place, mass will be led by Želimir Puljić, President of the Croatian Bishop’s Conference and Archbishop of Zadar.

After the Mass and upon return to the Old City, the closing program will begin at noon in front of the church, which will be led by the rector the Church of Saint Blaise, Toma Lučić, with the lowering of the flag of Saint Blaise and the raising of the national flag. Then follows a mass which will mark the end of this year’s, otherwise the 1046th, Festivity of Saint Blaise.


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