It has been 80 years the adoption of rules of The Mortat-Bearers of St Blaise Society, which was founded in 1847 in Dubrovnik. At that time men fired various weapons such as different old-fashioned pistols, guns and mortars. Because of accidents that happend when using the weapons, the adoption of the rules enabled the reaching of a decision to cast uniform muskets with walnut gunstock and St Blaise´s coat of arms on the bronze barrel. The Society rules revealed its purpose and aim: the support of the ancient folk custom of the city of Dubrovnik and its surroundings to fire mortars on the occasion of public holidays, namely, on the Day of St Blaise, the City´s protector and patron saint.
With its longstanding tradition, the present-day Dubrovnik Musket-bearing Guard of Honour has preserved the memory of the fact that at the time of the Dubrovnik Republic the Festival of St Blaise was a unique oppurtunity for the parade of military forces oft he „little state“. The Musket-bearing Guard of Honour maintains the memory oft he one time brotherhood of musket-bearers founded in the 16th century. It has inherited the historical names as well, because the people who manufactured and fired guns were also called mortar-bearers. Because the name mortar had taken root, „to fire a mortar“ meant firing any kind of firearms.
The history of the Dubrovnik musket-bearers could tell the entire story oft he development of armament in the old Dubrovnik, where the first cannon foundry was started as early as 1410 (in Vienna in 1472, in Prague in 1424, in Russia in 1474) and where one oft he finest cannon-and bell founders Ivan Rabljanin was employed by the City on a full-time basis. The continuity oft he Musket-Bearers Society was interrupted by historical setbacks, and the banning and closing down of the Society. However, in 1971 the Society was re-established. We also remember out beloved musket-bearers during Croatian War of Independence, when instead of giving the gun salute, they walked gracefully in the processions of St Blaise with olive branches in the barrels of their muskets. In the present-day Croatian state, the Dubrovnik musket-bearers are members of the Croatian Army Historic Forces Association.
The musket-bearers take par tin all major festivities oft he City and are an integral part oft he ceremony of the St Blaise Festival, the most solemn and favourite event in Dubrovnik. The thundering sound of their muskets is implanted not only in the festival´s memory but also presents an essential scenographic and audio framework for glorification of their Patron Saint.
Maja Nordari, Dubrovnik Tourist Bord, 2016