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 Sebastea, historical Armenia
Died316 AD
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Church
Feast usually in January (date varies)(Armenian Apostolic);
3 February (Roman Catholic);
11 February (Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic)
Attributes Wool comb, candles, tending a choking boy or animals
Patronage Animals, builders, drapers, [1] choking, veterinarians, throats, infants, Bradford, Maratea, Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, Campanário, Madeira, Rubiera, stonecutters, carvers, wool workers

Blaise (Armenian : Սուրբ Վլասի, Soorp Vlasi; Greek : Άγιος Βλάσιος, Agios Vlasios; also known as Saint Blase), was a physician, and bishop of Sebastea in historical Armenia (modern Sivas, Turkey). According to the Acta Sanctorum , he was martyred by being beaten, attacked with iron combs, and beheaded. He is the patron saint of wool combers. In the Latin Church his feast falls on 3 February, in the Eastern Churches on 11 February. [2]

Armenian language Indo-European language

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language that is the only language in the Armenian branch. It is the official language of Armenia as well as the de facto Republic of Artsakh. Historically being spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands, today, Armenian is widely spoken throughout the Armenian diaspora. Armenian is written in its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, introduced in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.



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.

Marco Polo reported the place where "Messer Saint Blaise obtained the glorious crown of martyrdom", Sebastea; [3] the shrine near the citadel mount was mentioned by William of Rubruck in 1253. [4] However, it appears to no longer exist.

Marco Polo Venetian explorer and merchant noted for travel to central and eastern Asia

Marco Polo was an Italian merchant, explorer, and writer, born in the Republic of Venice. His travels are recorded in Livre des merveilles du monde, a book that described to Europeans the wealth and great size of China, its capital Peking, and other Asian cities and countries.

William of Rubruck Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer

William of Rubruck was a Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer. His account of his travels is one of the masterpieces of medieval geographical literature, comparable to those of Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta. Born in Rubrouck, Flanders, he is known also as William of Rubruk, Willem van Ruysbroeck, Guillaume de Rubrouck or Willielmus de Rubruquis. He travelled to various places of the Mongol Empire in Asia before his return to Europe.


From being a healer of bodily ailments, Saint Blaise became a physician of souls, then retired for a time to a cavern where he remained in prayer. As bishop of Sebastea, Blaise instructed his people as much by his example as by his words, and the great virtues and sanctity of the servant of God were attested by many miracles. From all parts, the people came flocking to him for the cure of bodily and spiritual ills. [5] He is said to have healed animals (who came to the saint on their own for his assistance) and to have been assisted by animals.

In 316, the governor of Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia Agricolaus began a persecution by order of the Emperor Licinius and Saint Blaise was seized. After his interrogation and a severe scourging, he was hurried off to prison, [5] and subsequently beheaded.

Lesser Armenia, also known as Armenia Minor and Armenia Inferior, comprised the Armenian–populated regions primarily to the west and northwest of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. The region was later reorganized into the Armeniac Theme under the Byzantine Empire.

BHO 183 [6] ; BHG 276-277 [7] , BHL 1370-1389 [8]

The Acts of St. Blaise

Statue of Saint Blaise at Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc. Holy Trinity Column-Saint Blaise.jpg
Statue of Saint Blaise at Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc.

The legendary Acts of St. Blaise were written 400 years later. [9] The Acts of St. Blaise, written in Greek, are medieval.

The legend as given in the Grande Encyclopédie is 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 jail, 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. [10]

The blessing of St. Blaise

According to the Acts, while Blaise was being taken into custody, a distraught mother, whose only child was choking on a fishbone, threw herself at his feet and implored his intercession. Touched at her grief, he offered up his prayers, and the child was cured. Consequently, Saint Blaise is invoked for protection against injuries and illnesses of the throat.

In many places on the day of his feast the blessing of St. Blaise is given: two candles (sometimes lit), blessed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas), are held in a crossed position by a priest over the heads of the faithful or the people are touched on the throat with them. At the same time the following blessing is given: "Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness". Then the priest makes the sign of the cross over the faithful.


As the governor's hunters led Blaise back to Sebastea, on the way, the story goes, they met a poor woman whose pig had been seized by a wolf. At the command of Blaise, the wolf restored the pig to its owner, alive and unhurt. When he had reached the capital and was in prison awaiting execution, the old woman whose pig he had saved came to see him, bringing two fine wax candles to dispel the gloom of his dark cell. In the West there was no cult honoring St. Blaise prior to the eighth century. [11]

Cult of Saint Blaise

The Fourteen Holy Helpers. 14Nothelfer.JPG
The Fourteen Holy Helpers.
Marcello Venusti's copy of the original version of Michaelangelo's The Last Judgment; detail showing an uncensored version of St. Catherine at the bottom left while above her, the figure of Saint Blaise holding Iron combs at the left had a different head position; St Catherine was repainted in a dress and St Blaise was repainted looking up at Jesus Marcello venusti, santi biagio e caterina prima della censura, 1549.jpg
Marcello Venusti's copy of the original version of Michaelangelo's The Last Judgment; detail showing an uncensored version of St. Catherine at the bottom left while above her, the figure of Saint Blaise holding Iron combs at the left had a different head position; St Catherine was repainted in a dress and St Blaise was repainted looking up at Jesus
Republic of Ragusa Flag with Saint Blaise St. Blaise - National Flag of the Ragusan Republic.png
Republic of Ragusa Flag with Saint Blaise

One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Blaise became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. [2] His cult became widespread in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries and his legend is recounted in the 14th-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). Several places in Portugal and Brazil are also named after him, where he is called São Brás (see São Brás).

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.

In Great Britain

In Cornwall the town of St Blazey and the civil parish of St Blaise derive from his name, where the parish church is still dedicated to Saint Blaise. The council of Oxford in 1222 forbade all work on his festival. [12] 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 and another at Milton near Abingdon in Oxfordshire), 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 vice admiral on board the Mary Rose at the time of her sinking. This church, unusually, retains the office of "archpriest". [13]

There is a St. Blaise's Well In Bromley, Kent [14] 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.

In Bradford, West Yorkshire a Roman Catholic middle school named after St Blaise was operated by the Diocese of Leeds from 1961 to 1995. The name was chosen due to the connections of Bradford to the woollen industry and the method that St Blaise was martyred, with the woolcomb. Due to reorganisation the school closed down when Catholic middle schools were phased out, and the building was sold to Bradford Council to provide replacement accommodation for another local middle school which had burned down. Within a few months, St Blaise school was also severely damaged in a fire, and the remains of the building were demolished. A new primary school was built on the land, and most of the extensive grounds were sold off for housing.

14th Century wall painting of St Blaise in All Saints Church in Kingston upon Thames, UK St Blaise Kutte.jpeg
14th Century wall painting of St Blaise in All Saints Church in Kingston upon Thames, UK

There is a 14th-century wall painting in All Saints Church, Kingston upon Thames, located by the market place, marking the significance of the wool trade in the economic expansion of the market town in the 14th and 15th centuries.

In Croatia

Church of St. Blasius in Dubrovnik Svvlaho photo.jpg
Church of St. Blasius in Dubrovnik

Saint Blaise (Croatian : Sveti Vlaho or Sveti Blaž) is the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik 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 Gruž 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 Iceland

Saint Blaise (Icelandic: Blasíus) was prominent in Iceland, in particular Southwestern Iceland, where he was known for his purported miracle-working powers. [15] Saint Blaise is mentioned in Þorláks saga helga , an Icelandic saga about Thorlak Thorhallsson, the patron saint of Iceland. [15]

Blaise and Blasius of Jersey

In England in the 18th and 19th 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, Channel Islands. 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).


In iconography, Blaise is represented holding two crossed candles in his hand (the Blessing of St. Blaise), or in a cave surrounded by wild beasts, as he was found by the hunters of the governor. [9] He is often shown with the instruments of his martyrdom, steel combs. 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 his feast day, which falls on 3 February, the day after Candlemas on the General Roman Calendar. Blaise is traditionally believed to intercede in cases of throat illnesses, especially for fish-bones stuck in the throat. [16]

See also

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  1. A World History of Tax Rebellions: An Encyclopedia of Tax Rebels, Revolts from Antiquity to Present By David F. Burg
  2. 1 2 Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Blaise." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 3 Feb. 2013
  3. Marco Polo, Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian (1260-1295), I, ch. 46.
  4. William Woodville Rockhill, ed., tr.The Journey of William of Rubruck to the eastern parts of the world, 1253-55 1900:276.
  5. 1 2 "Life of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr", Colegio de Santa Catalina Alejandria Archived February 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  9. 1 2 Foley O.F.M., Leonard, "Saint Blaise", Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons, and Feasts, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media ISBN   978-0-86716-887-7
  10. Vollet, E. H., Grande Encyclopédie s.v. Blaise (Saint); published in Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca "Auctarium", 1969, 278, col. 665b.
  11. "St. Blaise, Martyr", Lives of Saints, John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.
  12. Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911: "Blaise".
  13. "Church of St Blaise". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  14. Lysons, Daniel The Environs of London (Vol. 4), p307-323 (pub. 1796) - "British history online" (website).
  15. 1 2 Cormack, Margaret. "The Cult of St Blaise in Iceland". Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
  16. 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.)