As previously reported on TCN, Dubrovnik celebrated the 1700th Feast of St. Blaise on February 3, 2016. TCN’s Ivana Sepak was there. A Dubrovnik resident, Ivana offers up some thoughts. With thanks to Kresimir Macan for photos on his Facebook wall.
One can only imagine what was going on in Dubrovnik during year of 972: enemies lurking from all possible corners; sworn protectors – The Byzantine Empire – were too far away to come and defend the people in the time of need; inhabitants living inside of the walled city very careful and suspicious of all foreigners… And then there was Venice. Ah, the sworn enemy and a good friend at the same time, the magnificent Serenissima not wanting to miss any convenient opportunity to take Dubrovnik over. Little did they think that Dubrovnik is going to have heavenly protection!
If you find yourself in Dubrovnik and see long, thin pillars called standali, decorated with leaves of bay and having a flag on top with an old man holding Dubrovnik in one hand and a cane in the other, placed alongside the main street Stradun, you know something special is going on or about to happen. The same is during this festive day – Saint Blaise’s day. This year Dubrovnik is commemorating him for 1044th time! It is the longest continuous festival in Croatia and worldwide and it was also assigned to UNESCO’s immaterial heritage in 2012.
The way the feast was celebrated in the medieval times changed largely. For one, the feast used to last for two weeks and even the prisoners were allowed to participate – they were not prosecuted for the time. Still, just like today, it was a great honor to take a part in the feast, even if it only meant just being there. It is a good time to reflect to the event that brought St. Blaise to Dubrovnik’s pedestal. Namely, Venice tried to take over Dubrovnik several times before 972. During that year, one time they anchored with their ships in port of Gruž (today it’s the place where large cruise ships stop before they end their journey in Venice – how ironic is that) under the pretext that they needed to be supplied with food. Almost everybody was fooled – all but certain Stojko, a priest from old town’s Saint Stephen’s church where Saint Blaise came to his vision and revealed Venice’s true intentions. The priest did not hesitate, he notified Dubrovnik’s senate and Venice was chased away. Ever since then, without a single year of pause, Saint Blaise’s day is remembered and celebrated.
It would be really interesting to see what the atmosphere was like on St. Baises’s day during the 150 years of Venice’s reign in Dubrovnik, but one can be certain that it was celebrated and probably with even more vigor than today – locals were very rebellious and they probably used any given opportunity to infuriate the conquerors. You can also be a rebel of the 21st century and come and feast with us on full streets of the old town in the middle of the week, on February 3rd. Too bad the feast does not last for two weeks like it used to, ah, the good old days!