Saint Blaise (Surp Vlas in Armenian, Sanctus Blasius in Latin), was a real historical figure born in ancient Sebaste in Lesser Armenia, part of the Armenian territory run by Rome.
He was known as an extremely knowledgeable and virtuous doctor, a great friend of the poor and the sick. Through his charitable work, he gained the sympathy and love of the people and became the Bishop of Sebaste. He was martyred there in the year 316, persecuted by the Roman Emperor Licinius, thus becoming one of the countless heroes of the first centuries of Christianity. He hid from the authorities, but by bribing the dungeon guards, at night he would visit and take care of the Christians who had been arrested. As his persecution continued, he found refuge in the mountains of Cappadocia where he lived surrounded by wild beasts that brought him food, and he, in turn, treated them and so he became the patron saint of veterinarians. However, he was discovered by the occupying Army and was taken back to Sebaste. On the way, he healed a child who had a fishbone stuck in his throat. In Central Europe, this miracle put him among the Fourteen Holy Helpers and he became the protector against diseases of the throat. Repeatedly refusing to sacrifice to idols, Blaise was tortured cruelly and repeatedly. On the order of Prefect Agricola, the torturers flayed him with iron combs used for combing wool and they hung a millstone around his neck with the intent to drown him in the lake, but with the help of God, Blaise endured all of this torture (hence he is also the protector and shepherds and wool combers). At the third hearing, Blaise did not give up the Christian faith; rather he said to Agricola, ˝You are trying in vain Prefect. How can an eye that has seen the light, fall in love with darkness again?˝ At the end, he was beheaded on February 3rd. Marco Polo is one of many that writes about the place where the saint suffered martyrdom. His cult spread throughout Europe in the 11th and 12th century and his life story is told through the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine.
The people of Dubrovnik have worshiped St. Blaise as their patron saint, or just their Patron, since the second half of the 10th century. From the time of the first Venetian attempts to take over the territory, when St. Blaise inspired the priest Stojko to warn the city fathers of the deceitful intent of Venice, all the way until the present day, St. Blaise has defended Dubrovnik from all kinds of enemies. He was and has remained the foremost citizen of Dubrovnik, its defence, honour and pride. St Blaise permeated and united all of life in Dubrovnik throughout the centuries. He is present from the altar to the table, with his omnipresence in all spheres of life, among all social classes, and cultural space. Indeed, while other cities have their patron saint, in Dubrovnik it is the Saint that has his own City. Proof of this is found in the fact that the Festivity of St. Blaise is on UNESCO’s list of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.