Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr

Blaise is believed to have been a physician and bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, and to have been put to death under the Emperor Licinius and the prefect Agricolaus in the early 4th century. There is no evidence of a cult in either the East or West prior to the 8th century, and Lives in Greek and Latin are believed to be purely fictitious.

But according to these, he was the son of rich and noble Christians, and was consecrated bishop at a very young age. After becoming a bishop, a new persecution of Christians began and he received a message from God to take refuge in the hills. While there, a woman brought him her son, who was near death because of a fish bone stuck in his throat. Blaise restored the boy back to health.

Later, men hunting in the mountains came on a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick.  Blaise walked among them unafraid and cured their illnesses.  Recognising Blaise as a bishop, he was captured and brought back for trial.  On the way, he persuaded a wolf to release a pig belonging to a poor woman. When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles.

The tradition says he was martyred by being beaten, attacked with iron carding combs and finally beheaded. Now, at the annual blessing of throats on his feast day, two candles tied together in the shape of a ‘V’ are used in the ritual. In Latin, the blessing prayer is:

Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii liberet te Deus a malo gutteris et a quovis alio malo.

This translates as:

“May God at the intercession of Saint Blaise preserve you from troubles of the throat and every other evil.”

Water with the blessing of St Blaise is also given to sick cattle. Because the iron combs with which he was tortured were similar in appearance to wool-combs, for a long time, Blaise was the patron of wool-combers.

He is also patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik (where he is known as Sveti Vlaho) since 972 AD. Here, on 3 February, the relics of the saint, his head, a piece of bone from his throat and his right and left hands, are paraded in reliquaries.

Blaise is also listed as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The shrine at Canterbury in England claimed to have his relics and at least four miracles were recorded as happening there. The last one of these was dated 1451.

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