Sveti Vlaho, biskup grada Sebaste (danas Sivas), za vrijeme cara Licinija podnio mučeništvo zbog svoje kršćanske vjere. Čašćenje mu se ubrzo raširilo i na Istoku i na Zapadu.
Prema pisanju starih dubrovačkih Ijetopisaca sveti Vlaho izabran je za sveca zaštitnika Dubrovnika nakon što se ukazao svećeniku Crkve sv. Stjepana rekavši mu da s nebeskom vojskom brani grad od Mlećana. Spasivši se od mletačke opasnosti, Dubrovčani odabiru svetoga Vlaha za nebeskoga zaštitnika umjesto dotadašnjega sv. Srđa (Sergija).
Za vrijeme nadbiskupa Vitala u Dubrovnik su 1026. godine donesene moći glave svetoga Vlaha o čemu je svjedočanstvo ostavio Ijetopisac Milecije.
U Povelji pape Hadrijana IV. od 4. srpnja 1158. kojom dodjeljuje palij (naramenik) dubrovačkomu nadbiskupu Tribunu određuje se kako ga nadbiskup kao znak svoje časti i povezanosti s Papom ima nositi na glavne crkvene blagdane dodajući im i blagdan Sv. Vlaha. Taj je navod prvo dokumentirano spominjanje Svečeve teste u Dubrovniku.
Na Svečev blagdan, 3. veljače 1190. godine, usvojen je propis prema kojemu sudski imunitet (salvus conductus) zbog dugova i drugih sporova, ali ne i zločina, uživaju oni koji dođu u Dubrovnik tri dana prije i tri dana nakon blagdana Sv. Vlaha (franchisia Sancti Blasii). Uz promicanje milosrđa i pobožnosti, ovaj je propis imao praktičnu svrhu omogućavajući sklapanje nagodbi i sporazumno rješavanje sporova medu građanima. Stoga je 1453. trajanje te slobode čak produljeno sa sedam na petnaest dana.
U oporuci vlastelina Miha Ranjine od 12. prosinca 1255. prvi se put spominje Crkva sv. Vlaha na Gorici. Hodočašće u ovu zavjetnu crkvu pomoraca i putnika u osmini svetkovine Sv. Vlaha označava završetak zimske Fešte sv. Vlaha.
Toma Paleolog, posljednji morejski despot i brat posljednjega bizantskog cara Konstantina XI., iz zahvalnosti za učinjene usluge darovao je 1452. godine Dubrovčaninu Đuru Radovanoviću moći desne ruke svetoga Vlaha. Radovanović je 1459. godine moći poklonio Republici, kada su prenesene u riznicu katedrale gdje se nalaze i ostale Svečeve moći.
U metežu nakon katastrofalnoga potresa iz 1667. godine bio je ukraden Moćnik lijeve ruke sv. Vlaha. Nakon dulje potrage pronađen je u Genovi odakle je 5. Srpnja 1674., upravo na blagdan Ruke sv. Vlaha, vraćen u Dubrovnik.
U noći između 24. i 25. svibnja 1706. u požaru izazvanom nepažnjom izgorjela je stara Crkva sv. Vlaha. Crkva je bila gotovo sasvim uništena, a od predmeta je od vatre sačuvan jedino srebrni pozlaćeni kip Sv. Vlaha s prikazom grada iz XV stoljeća. U spomen na taj događaj, a iz zahvalnosti svetomu Vlahu što se požar nije proširio na ostatak grada. 1707. ustanovljen je spomendan Obrane sv. Vlaha (Patrocinium Sancti Blaisi) koji se do pada Republike obilježavao 25. svibnja svake godine.
Dan nakon blagdana Ruke sv. Vlaha, 6. srpnja 1806., završena je opsada Dubrovnika koju su u sukobu s francuskom vojskom vodile rusko-crnogorske trupe; završetak opsade pripisan je zavjetu Dubrovčana svetomu Vlahu. U toj je opsadi prilikom bombardiranja građa bio lakše oštećen i svečev kip na pročelju Crkve sv. Vlaha.
Održana je posljednja Fešta sv. Vlaha pod Dubrovačkom Republikom koja je prestala postojati iduće 1808. godine. Nakon pripajanja Dubrovnika Austrijskoj Carevini (1815.) Fešta je idućih dvadeset godina ograničena samo na crkvenu svečanost bez procesije.
Na poticaj biskupa Antuna Giuricea i književnika Antuna Kaznačića obnovljena je svečana proslava Fešte sv. Vlaha s procesijom.
Od svečanosti 1866. do danas poznat je popis propovjednika Trodnevnice svetoga Vlaha koja se u Parčevoj crkvi održava 30. i 31. siječnja i 1. veljače. Od 1869. u pravilu svake četvrte godine propovjednik je fratar bijeli (dominikanac), od 1871. fratar crni (franjevac), a od 1924. jezuit (isusovac).
Povjesničar dum Stijepo kan. Skurla (1832.-1877.) godine 1871. objavio je knjigu Sveti Vlahu, biskup i mučenik od Sevasta: dubrovački obranitelj u kojoj daje dotad najcjelovitiji prikaz svečeva životopisa i štovanja u Dubrovniku.
Počinju se imenovati po dva festanjula čija je zadaća organiziranje svečanosti Sv. Vlaha. Festanjuli (svetkovnici) nisu imenovani samo u tri navrata: 1917.-1918., 1942.-1944. i 1949- 1969. Nakon zadnje stanke jedan je festanjuo iz reda obrtnika, a drugi iz reda pomoraca, a prije su bili uglavnom odvjetnici i liječnici. Živući festanjuli okupljeni su u Bratovštinu festanjula svetoga Vlaha pri njegovoj zbornoj crkvi.
Godine 1916. obilježavalo se 1600. obljetnica mučeničke smrti sv. Vlaha, no zbog ratnih događaja Prvoga svjetskog rata proslava se ograničila samo na liturgijsku svečanost bez procesije. Ipak, tom je prigodom objavljen poseban broj Lista Dubrovačke biskupije s brojnim vrijednim znanstvenim i publicističkim prilozima.
Godine 1926. svečano je obilježavana 900. obljetnica dolaska moćiju glave sv. Vlaha u Dubrovnik. Tim je povodom Dubrovnik posjetio i u svečevoj fešti 3. veljače 1926. sudjelovao papinski nuncij Ermenegildo Pellegrinetti.
Feštu sv. Vlaha uoči Drugoga svjetskog rata predvodio je blaženi Alojzije Stepinac, zagrebački nadbiskup i hrvatski metropolit.
U jeku Drugoga svjetskog rata, 25. ožujka 1944. godine Dubrovčani su se zavjetovali svetomu Vlahu i Gospi od Porata kako bi grad bio pošteđen bombardiranja.
Na proslavi osmine blagdana Sv. Vlaha, 14. veljače 1965., kip sv. Vlaha svečano je vraćen u svečevu crkvu na Gorici koja je tada bila popravljena nakon oštećenja u bombardiranjima 1941. i 1944. godine.
U Dubrovniku je 6. veljače 1972. uz sudjelovanje mnogobrojnoga puka i svećenstva iznimno svečano proslavljena tisućita obljetnica izbora sv. Vlaha za dubrovačkoga zaštitnika. Tom je prilikom svečana misa po prvi put održana na otvorenom, na trgu sa sjeverne strane Katedrale prema Kneževu dvoru. Na proslavi su papu Pavla VI. predstavljali kardinali Franjo Šeper i John Joseph Wright.
Nakon demokratskih promjena u Hrvatskoj javno slavlje Feste sv. Vlaha ponovno je vraćeno na sam svečev dan 3. veljače jer je od 1949. godine bilo premješteno na prvu nedjelju nakon dana Sv. Vlaha.
Grad je bio pod opsadom srpsko-crnogorskih trupa, pa nije bilo procesije, ali je Fešta u Katedrali okupila najviše, čak 13 biskupa. Propovijedao je đakovački biskup Ćiril Kos kao biskup Vukovara, grada prijatelja Dubrovnika.
Feštu je predvodio prvi papinski nuncij u Hrvatskoj, nadbiskup Giulio Einaudi.
Godišnja svečanost Sv. Vlaha u Dubrovniku uvrštena je 30. rujna 2009. na popis duhovne (nematerijalne) baštine čovječanstva specijalizirane agencije Ujedinjenih naroda za naobrazbu, znanost i kulturu — UNESCO-a.
Na Fešti je zabilježen dotad najveći broj barjaka – 148.
Ivan Vigjen, Turistička zajednica grada Dubrovnika, 2016.
Chronology of Saint Blaise
Saint Blaise, Bishop of Sebaste (the present-day Sivas) suffered martyrdom because of his Christian faith during the reign of Emperor Licinius. Shortly afterwards, people began to revere him in both the East and West.
According to the Old Dubrovnik chroniclers, Saint Blaise was chosen as Dubrovnik’s patron saint after he appeared to a priest from St Stephen’s Church telling him that he was protecting the city from the Venetians with his celestial army. Saved from the Venetian threat, the people of Dubrovnik chose Saint Blaise as their heavenly protector instead of their former patron Saint Sergius (Srđ).
According to the chronicler Miletus, St Blaise’s head relics were brought to Dubrovnik in 1026, at the time of Archbishop Vitalis.
In the charter of Pope Hadrian IV of 4 July 1158, by which he bestows the pallium on Dubrovnik’s Archbishop Tribun, the archbishop is required to wear it as a sign of his honor and bond with the Pope on main church holidays to which he adds the Festival of St Blaise. This quote is the first recorded mention of the saint’s festival in Dubrovnik.
On the Patron Saint’s Day, celebrated on 3 February, a regulation was adopted, according to which people arriving in Dubrovnik three days before and three days after the Festival Of Saint Blaise are granted legal immunity (salvus conductus – safe conduct) in cases of debt and other charges, except in cases of crime. In addition to promoting mercy and piety, this regulation had a practical purpose enabling residents to make deals and settle disputes agreeably. In 1453, this period was even extended from seven to fifteen days.
The Church of Saint Blaise at Gorica is mentioned for the first time in the will of the aristocrat Miho Ranjina on 12 December 1255. Seamen’s and travellers’ pilgrimages to this votive church on the eighth day of the Festival denote the end of the winter Festival of Saint Blaise.
On 29 May 1272, the Dubrovnik Statute was passed, mentioning, among other things, the Festival of St Blaise. It also describes the inauguration ceremony of the newly elected rector, who until the mid I4’h century was presented with the flag of Saint Blaise (vexillum Sancti Blasii), under which lie used to take his rectorial oath.
On 5 May 1346, a Dubrovnik merchant, Tomo de Vitianis, obtained and brought to Dubrovnik relics of St Blaise’s left hand. From the following year, this date began to be celebrated – probably on the initiative of Archbishop Ilija Saraka – as St Blaise’s Hand Day (Transituio Sancti Blasii), which still exists today.
On 26 February 1348, the Major Council reached a unanimous decision to construct St Blaise’s Church in the Placa. The decision determined the precise location and appearance of the future church, whose construction lasted until the first half of the 15th century. Built in Romanesque and Gothic styles, the church had three naves and faced eastwards. The city bell-tower (Luža) was later added to the church on its northern side, as well as a sacristy on its southern side.
In 1152, Thomas Palaiologos – the last Despot in Morca and brother of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI – presented Đuro Radovanović, a resident of Dubrovnik, with the relic of St Blaise’s right hand, in a mark of gratitude for services rendered. In 1459, Radovanović gave the relics to the Dubrovnik Republic. The Saint’s relics were placed in the Cathedral treasury, where his other relics were kept.
On 27 February 1552, the Dubrovnik Republic Senate adopted a regulation on the order of importance of state holidays, ranking Kith festivals of St Blaise (in February and in July) amongst the most important, and ordered the Rector and Small Council to take part in them.
On 6 April 1667, Dubrovnik was hit by a catastrophic earthquake that devastated the city and killed a large number of people. Although damaged, St Blaise’s Church was soon restored in order to serve temporarily (1670 – 1706) as Dubrovnik’s Cathedral, because the old one was completely destroyed by the earthquake.
In the confusion following the catastrophic earthquake 1667, the reliquary of St Blaise s left hand was stolen. After a long search, it was discovered in Genoa, and brought back to Dubrovnik on the very feast day of St Blaise’s hand reliquary, 5 July 1674.
On the night between 24 and 25 May 1706, the old Church of St Blaise burned down in a fire caused by negligence. In the almost completely destroyed church, only a silver and gold-plated statue St Blaise holding a 15th century model of the city survived. In 1707, a Memorial Day honoring St Blaise’s Patronage (Patrocinium Sancti Blasii) was established out of gratitude to Saint Blaise who prevented the fire spreading to the rest of the city. This memorial day was celebrated every year on 25 May until the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic.
On 5 May 1715, during the celebration of the Day of St Blaise’s Hand, the new Church of St Blaise was consecrated. With a ground-plan in the form of a Greek cross and a central cupola, the church was designed in the Baroque style by the Venetian sculptor and architect Marino Gropelli (1662 – 1728), possibly modelled on San Geminiano Church in Venice.
On 5 August 1716, following a request from the Dubrovnik Republic, Pope Clement XI approved a special solemn mass and divine office honoring Saint Blaise for the Dubrovnik archdiocese.
One day following St Blaise’s Hand Day, on 6 July 1806, the siege of Dubrovnik by the Russian and Montenegrin troops – who fought against the French army – ended. The people of Dubrovnik believed that St Blaise’s protection was responsible for the end of the siege, during which the saint’s statue on St Blaise’s Church facade was slightly damaged in a bombardment.
The last Festival of St Blaise of the Dubrovnik Republic was held. The Republic was abolished the following year, in 1808. After Dubrovnik’s annexation to the Austrian Empire (1815), for the next twenty years the festival was reduced to just a church celebration without a procession.
On the initiative of Bishop Antun Giuriceo and the writer Antun Kaznačić, the full ceremonial of the Festival of Saint Blaise, including the procession, was reinstated.
On 19 December 1857, a new Church of St Blaise was consecrated at Gorica. The church was built on the site of the old one that had been ravaged by time. Another reason for the building of the new church was the end of the cholera epidemic of 1855, which was believed to have happened on the intercession of Saint Blaise.
A list exists of the names of all the preachers who have led the Festival of St Blaise’s triduum (three day prayers) from the celebration held in 1866 until today which takes place at the Patron Saint’s church on 30th and 31st January and 1st February). As a rule, every fourth year since 1869, the preacher was a White Friar (a Dominican), from 1871 a Black Friar (a Franciscan), and from 1924 a Jesuit.
In 1871, the historian Father Stijepo Skurla (1832 – 1877) published a book entitled Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr of Sebaste: the Protector of Dubrovnik, including the Saint’s most complete biography up to then and a review of his veneration in Dubrovnik.
Since 1874, two masters of ceremony, locally called festanjuli, have been elected, with the task of organising the Festival of St Blaise. Only during three periods were the festanjuli not appointed: 1917-1918, 1942-1944 and 1949-1969. Since the last cessation, one of the festanjuli is chosen from one of the trades and the other from the ranks of seamen, whilst previously they had been mainly lawyers and doctors. Festanjuli are lifetime members of the Festanjuli Brotherhood of St Blaise at the church of his name.
The year 1916, marked the 1600th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Blaise. However, due to the events of World War I, the celebration was reduced to the liturgy only, without the procession. On that occasion, a special issue of the Dubrovnik Diocese Magazine was published with a large number of valuable scientific and publicistic articles.
In 1926, the 900th anniversary of the arrival of the head relic of St Blaise in Dubrovnik was marked. Papal Nuncio Ermenegildo Pellegrinetti visited Dubrovnik on that occasion and took part in the celebration of the Festival of St Blaise on 3 February 1926.
On the eve of World War II, the Festival of St Blaise was led by the blessed Alojzije Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb and Croatian Primate.
In the midst of World War II, on 25 March 1944, the people of Dubrovnik made a vow to Saint Blaise and Our Lady of Porat asking them to protect the city from shelling.
During the eighth day of the Festival of St Blaise, on 14 February 1965, the statue of Saint Blaise was ceremoniously returned to the newly restored Church of St Blaise at Gorica, which had been damaged by shelling in 1941 and 1944.
On 6 February 1972, the 1000th anniversary of the choosing of Saint Blaise as Dubrovnik’s patron saint was celebrated magnificently, with a large number of people and clergy taking part. Solemn mass was celebrated in the open air for the first time, in the square north of the Cathedral which faces the Rector’s Palace. Pope Paul VI was represented by Cardinals Franjo Šeper and John Joseph Wright.
After the democratic changes in Croatia, the public celebration of the Festival of St Blaise was returned to the Saint’s Day itself, 3 February because after 1949 the Festival had been moved to the first Sunday following St Blaise’s Day.
Dubrovnik was under siege by Serbian and Montenegrin troops and there was no procession, but the largest number of bishops ever, 13, took part in the Festival celebrated at the Cathedral and led by the Bishop of Đakovo Ćiril Kos, as Bishop of Vukovar, Dubrovnik’s twin city.
The Festival of St Blaise was led by the first Papal Nuncio in Croatia, Archbishop Giulio Einaudi.
On 30 September 2009, the annual celebration of the Festival of St Blaise was added to UNESCO’s list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The largest number of flags ever took part in the Festival – 148.
Ivan Vigjen, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, 2016