St. Blaise saved Dubrovnik by warning the people of Venetian invaders. Statues of the Saint (Croatian Sveti Vlaho or Sveti Blaž) holding Dubrovnik on his palm are everywhere. Beginning in 972, Dubrovnik has celebrated their patron and protector with a “series of concerts, exhibitions, book presentations, and performances”.
The Festival of St. Blaise is from February 2 through 10, and festivities, concerts, and activities begin earlier. The festival is a “celebration of Croatia’s past and a spiritual and religious unification of the city and surrounding countryside.” The celebration is part of Dubrovnik’s spirit and love of Libertas.
Kandelora Candle Mass February 2
The actual date of the St. Blaise celebration is February 3 preceded by several days of prayer. The festival begins with a solemn opening Candlemass ceremony – Kandelora – on February 2, when tolling church bells rally parishes to gather.
“Kandelora begins with the release of white doves in front of the Church of St. Blaise followed by raising the Saint’s flag on Orlando Column.”
A “laus” (well-wishing prayer) is said and girls in traditional costumes offer fruits of the land symbolizing twelve months of abundance. It’s a beautiful celebration with the flight of doves of peace, music, and the scent of laurel and candles in the air.
Meal for Reflection
Customs linked to Kandelora add to the festive atmosphere. As recommended by Saint Blaise, people share a modest lunch reflecting the tradition of charity and giving bread to the poor. Most restaurants offer a St. Blaise menu featuring local specialties.
St. Blaise was imprisoned in Sebasta for years under the Roman Governor of Agricolas. During his imprisonment “an impoverished widow for whom the Saint saved a pig by miracle, visited him in prison and brought a modest meal and a candle to light his cell”. The Saint thanked the widow and asked her to “keep giving to the poor as long as she lived, promising God’s blessing”.
“Kandelora is an introduction to the Holiday of St. Blaise when majestic processions, church bells, shots from fusiliers, and hymns permeate Dubrovnik Old Town!”
Saint Blaise Day February 3
On St Blaise’s Day there’s a procession of people of faith through Old Town. They carry banners and relics of their patron and wave church flags.
The day begins at 6:00 am at the pier in Old City harbor with a patriotic hymn, ringing of the city bells, music, and muskets fired by a platoon of Dubrovnik musketeers. This celebration is followed by mass in the Church of St. Blaise, a parade of Grand Masters, musketeers, city band, and standard bearers, and a banquet in honor of St. Blaise.
I’m staying in Dubrovnik for a few extra days just to experience the St. Blaise Festival. In addition to the actual ceremony on February 3rd I’ll attend two concerts and other activities. Most festivities are free and open to the public. I’m especially looking forward to these concerts:
- Dubrovnik Opera Divas singing in the Church of St. Blaise accompanied by the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra
- A gala-concert at the Rixos Libertas Hotel featuring top Croatian performers and the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra