St. Blaise saved Dubrovnik by warning the people of impending Venetian invaders. Statues of the Saint (Croatian Sveti Vlaho or Sveti Blaž) holding Dubrovnik on his palm are everywhere. Since 972 Dubrovnik has celebrated their patron and protector with a “series of concerts, exhibitions, book presentations, and theatre performances”.
The Festival of St. Blaise is from February 2 through 10, but festivities begin this weekend with concerts and activities. The festival is a “celebration of Croatia’s past and a spiritual and religious unification of the city and surrounding countryside.” It’s 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 and a solemn opening Candle Mass ceremony – Kandelora – on February 2. 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 special 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 for as long as she lived, promising her God’s blessing”.
“Kandelora is an introduction to the Holiday of St. Blaise when majestic processions, church bells, shots from fusiliers, and hymns permeate Old Town!”
Saint Blaise Day February 3
On St Blaise’s Day people of faith from Dubrovnik and surrounding areas form a procession 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 harbour 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 throughout Old City, 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