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Saint Blaise

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Saint Blaise
Saint Blaise Louvre OAR504.jpg
Saint Blaise confronting the Roman governor- scene from a stained glass window from the area of Soissons (Picardy, France), early 13th century.
Hieromartyr, Holy Helper
Born 278 AD, Armenia
Died c. 316MN
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Armenian Apostolic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Feast February 3 (Roman Catholic Church)
February 11 (Eastern Orthodox Churches)
Attributes Wool comb, candles, tending a choking boy or animals
Patronage Animals, builders, choking, veterinarians, throats, infants, Maratea, Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, Rubiera, stonecutters, carvers, wool workers

Saint Blaise (Armenian: Սուրբ Բարսեղ, Sourb Barsegh; Greek: Άγιος Βλάσιος, Agios Vlasios) was a physician, and bishop of (Sebastia) Sivas, Turkey. According to his Acta Sanctorum, he was martyred by being beaten, attacked with iron carding combs, and beheaded. He is known as San Biagio in Italy, and San Blas in Spain.

In iconography, Blaise is often shown with the instruments of his martyrdom, iron combs. He blessed throats and effected many miracles, according to his hagiography. The similarity of these instruments of torture to wool combs led to his adoption as the patron saint of wool combers in particular, and the wool trade in general. He may also be depicted with crossed candles. Such crossed candles are used for the blessing of throats on the feast day of Blaise, which falls on 3 February, the day after Candlemas on the Roman Catholic calendar of saints. Blaise is traditionally believed to intercede in cases of throat illnesses, especially for fish-bones stuck in the throat.[1]

Indeed, the first reference we have to him is in manuscripts of the medical writings of Aëtius Amidenus, a court physician of the very end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century; there his aid is invoked in treating objects stuck in the throat. He cured animals and lived in a cave. Before being killed, he spoke to a wolf and told it to release a pig it was harming. The wolf did so. Saint Blaise was going to be starved but the owner of the pig secretly gave him food in order to survive. After a while, he was tortured because of what he believed in but did not give up faith. He died in the year 316.

Cult of Saint Blaise

Holy Trinity Column-Saint Blaise

Statue of Saint Blaise at Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc.

His cult became widespread in Asia in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. St. Blaise is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers or Auxiliary Saints and his legend is recounted in the fourteenth-century Legenda Aurea. Saint Blaise is the saint of the wild beast.

He is the patron of the Armenian Order of Saint Blaise. In Italy he is known as San Biagio. In Spanish-speaking countries, he is known as San Blas, and has lent his name to many places (see San Blas).

In Italy, Saint Blaise's remains rest at the Basilica over the town of Maratea, shipwrecked there during Leo III the Isaurian's iconoclastic persecutions.

Many German churches, including the former Abbey of St. Blasius in the Black Forest and the church of Balve are dedicated to Saint Blaise/Blasius. The coat of arms for the city of Schladt commemorates Saint Blaise as their Patron Saint.

In Great Britain

In Cornwall the village of St Blazey derives from his name, where the parish church is still dedicated to Saint Blaise. Indeed, the council of Oxford in 1222 forbade all work on his festival.[2]

There is a church dedicated to Saint Blaise in the Devon hamlet of Haccombe, near Newton Abbot (Also one at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, another at Milton near Abingdon in Oxfordshire and an 11th Century Benedictine Priory jointly dedicated to Saint Mary at Boxgrove, near Chichester, West Sussex (see this is one of the country's smallest churches. It is located next to Haccombe house which is the family home of the Carew family, descendants of the captain of the Mary Rose at the time of her sinking. One curious fact associated with this church is that its "vicar" goes by the title of "archpriest".


The Fourteen Holy Helpers.

According to Brand's Popular Antiquities (1813), in areas of the English countryside it was the custom to light bonfires on St. Blaise's feast day, February 3 - evidently inspired by the sound of the word blaze.

There is a St. Blaise's Well In Bromley, Kent [3] where the water was considered to have medicinal virtues.

St Blaise is also associated with Stretford in Lancashire. A Blessing of the Throats ceremony is held on February 3 at St Etheldreda's Church in London and in Balve, Germany.

As Vlaho and Vlasij in Slavic lands

Svvlaho photo

Church of St. Blasius in Dubrovnik

Blaise is the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik (where he is known as Sveti Vlaho) and formerly the protector of the independent Republic of Ragusa. At Dubrovnik his feast is celebrated yearly on 3 February, when relics of the saint, his head, a bit of bone from his throat, his right hand and his left, are paraded in reliquaries. The festivities begin the previous day, Candlemas, when white doves are released. Chroniclers of Dubrovnik such as Rastic and Ranjina attribute his veneration there to a vision in 971 to warn the inhabitants of an impending attack by the Venetians, whose galleys had dropped anchor in Gruz and near Lokrum, ostensibly to resupply their water but furtively to spy out the city's defenses. St. Blaise (Blasius) revealed their pernicious plan to Stojko, a canon of St. Stephen's Cathedral. The Senate summoned Stojko, who told them in detail how St. Blaise had appeared before him as an old man with a long beard and a bishop's mitre and staff. In this form the effigy of Blaise remained on Dubrovnik's state seal and coinage until the Napoleonic era.

In Russia, St. Vlasij is the patron saint of herds.

Blaise and Blasius of Jersey

In England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Blaise was adopted as mascot of woolworkers' pageants, particularly in Essex, Yorkshire, Wiltshire and Norwich. The popular enthusiasm for the saint is explained by the belief that Blaise had brought prosperity (as symbolised by the Woolsack) to England by teaching the English to comb wool. According to the tradition as recorded in printed broadsheets, Blaise came from Jersey. Jersey was certainly a centre of export of woollen goods (as witnessed by the name jersey for the woollen textile). However, this legend is probably the result of confusion with a different saint, Blasius of Caesarea (Caesarea being also the Latin name of Jersey).

The Acta of St. Blaise

The Acts of St. Blaise, written in Greek, do not appear to be authentic.[4] The legend is given by E.-H. Vollet, in the Grande Encyclopédie as follows:

Blaise, who had studied philosophy in his youth, was a doctor in Sebaste in Armenia, the city of his birth, who exercised his art with miraculous ability, good-will, and piety. When the bishop of the city died, he was chosen to succeed him, with the acclamation of all the people. His holiness was manifest through many miracles: from all around, people came to him to find cures for their spirit and their body; even wild animals came in herds to receive his blessing. In 316, Agricola, the governor of Cappadocia and of Lesser Armenia, having arrived in Sebastia at the order of the emperor Licinius to kill the Christians, arrested the bishop. As he was being led to prison, a mother set her only son, choking to death of a fish-bone, at his feet, and the child was cured straight away. Regardless, the governor, unable to make Blaise renounce his faith, beat him with a stick, ripped his flesh with iron combs, and beheaded him.[5]

See also


  1. The formula for the blessing of throats is: "Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, episcopi et martyris, liberet te Deus a malo gutturis, et a quolibet alio malo. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen." ("Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God free you from illness of the throat and from any other sort of ill. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.)
  2. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911: "Blaise".
  3. Lysons, Daniel The Environs of London (Vol. 4), p307-323 (pub. 1796) - "British history online" (website).
  4. E.-H. Vollet, in the Grande Encyclopédie s.v. Blaise (Saint))
  5. loc.cit.

External links

an:San Blas

br:Bleaz Sebasteia ca:Sant Blai cs:Svatý Blažejko:블라시우스 hr:Sveti Blažla:Sanctus Blasius lb:Blasius vu Sebaste li:Blasius lmo:San Biás hu:Szent Balázsja:ブラシウス nap:San Biagio (santo) nrm:Blaisept:Brás de Sebaste ro:Blasiu de Sebastia ru:Власий Севастийский sr:Свети Власије sv:Blasius tr:Sebasteli Vlas uk:Святий Власій vec:San Biasio

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