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St. Blaise has a very special place in the hearts of the citizens of Dubrovnik. The patron saint of this historic city is celebrated as a saviour and protector, flags are carried aloft, banners proudly unfurled and processions attended.

The 3rd of February, the Day of St. Blaise, has been celebrated for over a thousand years.

According to legend St. Blaise saved Dubrovnik from an attack by Venetian forces back in 971. Venetian warships had dropped anchor around the ancient city walls on the eve of the 3rd of February. It was a dark winter’s night. The Venetians freely entered the Old City under the guise of requiring supplies for their journey eastwards. The real plan was much more sinister, they planned to invade and claim Dubrovnik for their empire. Spies dressed as sailors carefully observed the Dubrovnik defences, counting the number of guards and making notes of the cannons and archers. However unbeknown to the Venetians they too were being watched. As darkness fell on the 3rd of February 971 a local priest walked through the cobbled streets of the Old City to his parish church, the Church of St. Steven, when he arrived he was surprised to find the door open. With trepidation he entered, before him stood an old man dressed as a bishop, mitre on his head and a staff in his hand. “Address your city fathers the Venetians plan to attack,” whispered the old man from the darkness. “Please identify yourself to me,” asked the priest. To which the old man replied that his name was Blaise.

Realising the gravity of the situation and heeding the message from Blaise the priest did indeed inform the city fathers. Immediately the guards on the stone walls of the city were doubled, the gates were closed and measures were put in place to defend the city at all costs. The Venetians soon became aware that Dubrovnik was arming for an attack, their plan had been discovered and the element of surprise was lost. Just as quickly as they had arrived they loaded their ships and retreated into the night. Dubrovnik had been saved. The city was safe.

The following year Dubrovnik marked the day that their patron saint secured freedom for the city. And in 1026 the remains of St. Blaise were finally brought back to Dubrovnik, his final resting place in a city that owes him its liberty.

Long Live St. Blaise!

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