Saint Blaise
Overview
 
Saint Blaise was a physician, and bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 of Sebastea (modern Sivas, Turkey
Sivas, Turkey
Sivas is a city in east-central Turkey and the seat of Sivas Province. According to the 2007 Turkish census, its population was 300,795.The city, which lies at an elevation of in the broad valley of the Kızılırmak river, is a moderately-sized trade center and industrial city, although the economy...

). According to his Acta Sanctorum
Acta Sanctorum
Acta Sanctorum is an encyclopedic text in 68 folio volumes of documents examining the lives of Christian saints, in essence a critical hagiography, which is organised according to each saint's feast day. It begins with two January volumes, published in 1643, and ended with the Propylaeum to...

, he was martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

ed by being beaten, attacked with iron carding combs
Carding (torture)
Carding is a sometimes-fatal form of torture in which iron combs of the sort originally designed as woolcarding tools are used to scrape, tear, and flay the victim's flesh.-Iron comb:...

, and beheaded. He is known as San Biagio in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, San Blas in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and São Brás in Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

.

In iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

, Blaise is often shown with the instruments of his martyrdom, steel combs. He blessed throats and effected many miracles, according to his hagiography
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

.
Encyclopedia
Saint Blaise was a physician, and bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 of Sebastea (modern Sivas, Turkey
Sivas, Turkey
Sivas is a city in east-central Turkey and the seat of Sivas Province. According to the 2007 Turkish census, its population was 300,795.The city, which lies at an elevation of in the broad valley of the Kızılırmak river, is a moderately-sized trade center and industrial city, although the economy...

). According to his Acta Sanctorum
Acta Sanctorum
Acta Sanctorum is an encyclopedic text in 68 folio volumes of documents examining the lives of Christian saints, in essence a critical hagiography, which is organised according to each saint's feast day. It begins with two January volumes, published in 1643, and ended with the Propylaeum to...

, he was martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

ed by being beaten, attacked with iron carding combs
Carding (torture)
Carding is a sometimes-fatal form of torture in which iron combs of the sort originally designed as woolcarding tools are used to scrape, tear, and flay the victim's flesh.-Iron comb:...

, and beheaded. He is known as San Biagio in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, San Blas in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and São Brás in Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

.

In iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

, Blaise is often shown with the instruments of his martyrdom, steel combs. He blessed throats and effected many miracles, according to his hagiography
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

. The similarity of these instruments of torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 to wool combs led to his adoption as the patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

 combers in particular, and the wool trade in general. He may also be depicted with crossed candle
Candle
A candle is a solid block or cylinder of wax with an embedded wick, which is lit to provide light, and sometimes heat.Today, most candles are made from paraffin. Candles can also be made from beeswax, soy, other plant waxes, and tallow...

s. Such crossed candles are used for the blessing of throats
Blessing of the Throats
The Blessing of the Throats is a ritual prescribed and authorized by the Roman Catholic Church, usually observed on the feast day of Saint Blaise...

 on the feast day of Blaise, which falls on 3 February, the day after Candlemas on the Roman Catholic calendar of saints
Roman Catholic calendar of saints
The General Roman Calendar indicates the days of the year to which are assigned the liturgical celebrations of saints and of the mysteries of the Lord that are to be observed wherever the Roman Rite is used...

. Blaise is traditionally believed to intercede in cases of throat
Throat
In vertebrate anatomy, the throat is the anterior part of the neck, in front of the vertebral column. It consists of the pharynx and larynx...

 illnesses, especially for fish-bones stuck in the throat.

Indeed, the first reference we have to him is in manuscripts of the medical writings of Aëtius Amidenus
Aëtius Amidenus
Aëtius of Amida was a Byzantine physician and medical writer, particularly distinguished by the extent of his erudition. Historians are not agreed about his exact date...

, 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. He cured animals and lived in a cave. Before being killed, he spoke to a wolf and told it to release a pig it was harming. The wolf did so. Saint Blaise was going to be starved but the owner of the pig secretly gave him food in order to survive. After a while, he was tortured because of his Christian faith but did not give up his beliefs. He died in the year AD 316.

Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 reported the place where "Meeser Saint Blaise obtained the glorious crown of martyrdom", Sevasta (now Sivas, Turkey
Sivas, Turkey
Sivas is a city in east-central Turkey and the seat of Sivas Province. According to the 2007 Turkish census, its population was 300,795.The city, which lies at an elevation of in the broad valley of the Kızılırmak river, is a moderately-sized trade center and industrial city, although the economy...

); the shrine near the citadel mount was mentioned by William of Rubruck
William of Rubruck
William of Rubruck was a Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer. His account is one of the masterpieces of medieval geographical literature comparable to that of Marco Polo....

 in 1253. However it appears to no longer exist, neither does the nearby St Blaise church.

In the Orthodox Church of Greece the bishopric of Naupactus
Naupactus
Naupactus or Nafpaktos , is a town and a former municipality in Aetolia-Acarnania, West Greece, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Nafpaktia, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

 is held with that of St. Blaise.

Cult of Saint Blaise

His cult became widespread in Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. St. Blaise is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers
Fourteen Holy Helpers
The Fourteen Holy Helpers are a group of saints venerated together in Roman Catholicism because their intercession is believed to be particularly effective, especially against various diseases...

 or Auxiliary Saints and his legend is recounted in the fourteenth-century Legenda Aurea. Saint Blaise is the saint of the wild beast.

He is the patron of the Armenian Order of Saint Blaise
Order of Saint Blaise
The Order of St. Blaise was founded in Armenia in the 12th century and takes its name from Saint Blaise, patron of the kingdom. It was divided into religious, who were charged with the holy offices and missionary work among the unbelievers, and the fighters, who defended the country against the...

. In Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 he is known as San Biagio. In Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

-speaking countries, he is known as San Blas, and has lent his name to many places (see San Blas
San Blas
San Blas, the Spanish name for Saint Blaise, can refer to:*San Blas, La Rioja*San Blas Department*San Blas, Costa Rica*San Blas, Quito*San Blas, El Salvador* San Blas, Nadur* San Blas, Nayarit* San Blas, Sinaloa* San Blas Atempa, Oaxaca...

).

In Italy, Saint Blaise's remains rest at the Basilica over the town of Maratea
Maratea
Maratea is a town and comune of Basilicata, in the province of Potenza. It is the only town of the region on the Tyrrhenian coast and because of its beautiful scenery and coastline it has been called "the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian"...

, shipwrecked there during Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian or the Syrian , was Byzantine emperor from 717 until his death in 741...

's iconoclastic persecutions.

Many German churches, including the former Abbey of St. Blasius in the Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

 and the church of Balve
Balve
Balve is a town in the Märkischer Kreis district, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in Hönnetal, a narrow valley created by the river Hönne, which is near the Sorpesee, formerly part of Balve, and at the north end of the Sauerland, near Dortmund...

 are dedicated to Saint Blaise/Blasius.

In Great Britain

In Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 the village of St Blazey
St Blazey
St Blazey is a small town in Cornwall, United Kingdom.St Blaise is the civil parish in which St Blazey is situated; the name St Blaise is also used by the town council.St Blazey is situated east of St Austell...

 derives from his name, where the parish church is still dedicated to Saint Blaise. Indeed, the council of Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 in 1222 forbade all work on his festival.
There is a church dedicated to Saint Blaise in the Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 hamlet of Haccombe, near Newton Abbot
Newton Abbot
Newton Abbot is a market town and civil parish in the Teignbridge District of Devon, England on the River Teign, with a population of 23,580....

 (Also one at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight and another at Milton near Abingdon in Oxfordshire.) this is 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
Mary Rose
The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a...

 at the time of her sinking. One curious fact associated with this church is that its "vicar" goes by the title of "archpriest".

According to Brand's Popular Antiquities (1813), in areas of the English countryside it was the custom to light bonfire
Bonfire
A bonfire is a controlled outdoor fire used for informal disposal of burnable waste material or as part of a celebration. Celebratory bonfires are typically designed to burn quickly and may be very large...

s on St. Blaise's feast day, February 3 - evidently inspired by the sound of the word blaze.

There is a St. Blaise's Well
St. Blaise's Well
St Blaise's Well is a holy well located in the grounds of the old Bishop's Palace , now part of Bromley Civic Centre. in Bromley, Kent.-History of the site:...

 In Bromley
Bromley
Bromley is a large suburban town in south east London, England and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Bromley. It was historically a market town, and prior to 1963 was in the county of Kent and formed the administrative centre of the Municipal Borough of Bromley...

, Kent where the water was considered to have medicinal virtues.

St Blaise is also associated with Stretford
Stretford
Stretford is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in Greater Manchester, England. Lying on flat ground between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, it is to the southwest of Manchester city centre, south-southwest of Salford and northeast of Altrincham...

 in Lancashire
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

. A Blessing of the Throats
Blessing of the Throats
The Blessing of the Throats is a ritual prescribed and authorized by the Roman Catholic Church, usually observed on the feast day of Saint Blaise...

 ceremony is held on February 3 at St Etheldreda's Church
St Etheldreda's Church
St Etheldreda's Church is located in Ely Place, off Charterhouse Street, Holborn, London. It is dedicated to Æthelthryth, or Etheldreda, an Anglo-Saxon saint who founded the monastery at Ely in 673. The building was the chapel of the London residence of the Bishops of Ely.The chapel was purchased ...

 in London and in Balve
Balve
Balve is a town in the Märkischer Kreis district, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in Hönnetal, a narrow valley created by the river Hönne, which is near the Sorpesee, formerly part of Balve, and at the north end of the Sauerland, near Dortmund...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

.

In Croatia

Saint Blaise is the patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of the city of Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea coast, positioned at the terminal end of the Isthmus of Dubrovnik. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations on the Adriatic, a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva county. Its total population is 42,641...

 and formerly the protector of the independent Republic of Ragusa
Republic of Ragusa
The Republic of Ragusa or Republic of Dubrovnik was a maritime republic centered on the city of Dubrovnik in Dalmatia , that existed from 1358 to 1808...

. 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
Reliquary
A reliquary is a container for relics. These may be the physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures...

. The festivities begin the previous day, Candlemas, when white doves are released. Chroniclers of Dubrovnik such as Rastic and Ranjina
House of Ranjina
The House of Ranjina or Ragnina were an old noble family from Dubrovnik. The family traces its origins from Taranto, Italy.- See also :* Republic of Ragusa* Dubrovnik* Dalmatia* Post-Roman patriciates...

 attribute his veneration there to a vision in 971 to warn the inhabitants of an impending attack by the Venetians
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, whose galleys had dropped anchor in Gruž
Gruž
Gruž is modern day neighborhood in the greater city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The main port for Dubrovnik is in Gruž as well as its largest market and the main bus station "Libertas". Around 15,000 people currently live in Gruž...

 and near Lokrum
Lokrum
Lokrum or Lacroma is one of the islands off the city of Dubrovnik about 600 metres from the coast stretching from the northwest to the southeast, in the Adriatic Sea, Croatia. Its highest point above sea level is at 96 m....

, 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.

Blaise and Blasius for Jersey

In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Blaise was adopted as mascot of woolworkers' pageants, particularly in Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

, Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

, Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

 and Norwich
Norwich
Norwich is a city in England. It is the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom...

. The popular enthusiasm for the saint is explained by the belief that Blaise had brought prosperity (as symbolised by the Woolsack
Woolsack
The Woolsack is the seat of the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords, the Upper House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. From the Middle Ages until 2006, the presiding officer in the House of Lords was the Lord Chancellor and the Woolsack was usually mentioned in association with the office of...

) to England by teaching the English to comb wool. According to the tradition as recorded in printed broadsheet
Broadsheet
Broadsheet is the largest of the various newspaper formats and is characterized by long vertical pages . The term derives from types of popular prints usually just of a single sheet, sold on the streets and containing various types of material, from ballads to political satire. The first broadsheet...

s, Blaise came from Jersey
Jersey
Jersey, officially the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France. As well as the island of Jersey itself, the bailiwick includes two groups of small islands that are no longer permanently inhabited, the Minquiers and Écréhous, and the Pierres de Lecq and...

. Jersey was certainly a centre of export of woollen goods (as witnessed by the name jersey
Jersey (clothing)
A jersey is an item of knitted clothing, traditionally in wool or cotton, with sleeves, worn as a pullover, as it does not open at the front, unlike a cardigan. It is usually close-fitting and machine knitted in contrast to a guernsey that is more often hand knit with a thicker yarn...

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
Latin names of islands
The Ancient Romans gave Latin names to every geographical entity in their vast empire, and many outside throughout the then known world; while many of these names were based on pre-existing 'autochthonous' names, sometimes translating, more often just adapting to their tongue, especially the...

 of Jersey).

The Acts of St. Blaise

The Acts of St. Blaise, written in Greek, are medieval. The legend is given by E.-H. Vollet, in the Grande Encyclopédie 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
Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

 and of Lesser Armenia
Lesser Armenia
Lesser Armenia , also known as Armenia Minor and Armenia Inferior, refers to the Armenian populated regions, primarily to the West and North-West of the ancient Armenian Kingdom...

, having arrived in Sebastia at the order of the emperor Licinius
Licinius
Licinius I , was Roman Emperor from 308 to 324. Co-author of the Edict of Milan that granted official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, for the majority of his reign he was the rival of Constantine I...

 to kill the Christians, arrested the bishop. As he was being led to prison, 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.

External links

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