03 FebruaryFacade spire-G13
Patron Saint: Illnesses of the throat Symbol: Pastoral staff, Candle, Palm, Wool comb

Very little is known about the life of St. Blaise, whose liturgical memory we celebrate today. Biographical data regarding the Saint can be found in the hagiography by Camillo Tutini, who collected many testimonies transmitted via oral tradition. We know that he was a physician and bishop of Sebastea, in Armenia, and that his martyrdom occurred during the Christian persecutions, around 316, during the contrasts between the emperors Constantine (West) and Licinius (East). Captured by the Romans, he was beaten and skinned alive with metal combs used to card wool, and finally decapitated for refusing to recant his faith in Christ. He is a saint known and worshiped in the West as well as in the East. His cult is very widespread in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In his native city, where he carried out his episcopal ministry, it is said that he performed many miracles, among which the one he is best known for, i.e. the healing, during the time of his imprisonment, of a boy with a fishbone stuck in his trachea. To this day, in fact, the Saint in invoked to heal “illnesses of the throat.” St. Blaise is also one of the fourteen so-called helping saints, i.e. the saints invoked to heal particular ailments. Venerated in many Italian cities and towns, of which, in numerous cases, he is also the patron saint, he is celebrated on February 3rd throughout most of the Italian peninsula. It is tradition to introduce, in the middle of the liturgical celebration, a special blessing of the “throats” of the devotees, given by the priest by crossing two candles (in ancient times holy oil was used). There are also other interesting popular traditions for celebrating the Saint that have been handed down through time. Some, such as in Milan, celebrate at home by eating what remains of the Christmas panettone purposely left over, while others to remember the Saint prepare local specially shaped cakes, blessed by the priest and then distributed among the worshipers. At Lanzara, an area in the province of Salerno, for example, it is tradition to eat the famous meatloaf named after the Saint, the so-called “polpetta di San Biagio.” Instead, in the city of Salemi, they say that in 1542 the Saint saved the town from a horrible famine, caused by a locust invasion that destroyed the harvests in the countryside, by interceding and answering the prayers of the people who invoked his help (in fact, St. Blaise, in addition to being the protector of throats, is also the protector of messengers). From that day on, each year on February 3rd, the people of Salemi celebrate the Saint by preparing the so-called cavadduzzi, literally “grasshoppers,” and caddureddi i.e. small throat-shaped bread buns prepared using water and flour, blessed by the priest and distributed among the worshipers. Since 2008, again in Salemi, in cooperation with all the city schools and associations, a spectacular representation of the “miracle of the locust” is performed and ends with the arrival at the church named after the Saint to bear gifts and have “throats” blessed. In Cannara, located in the province of Perugia, the celebrations of the Saint are an opportunity to challenge each other in traditional popular games of skill such as ruzzolone, – literally, the big roll – which consists of rolling, for as long as possible, a wheel of cheese throughout the historical city center, or the famous sack race and many others, which then end with the solemn procession carrying the statue of the Saint accompanied by the local marching band. While in Fiuggi, the night before, the stuzze – i.e. large piles of wood stacked up in pyramid form – are burned in the main square in front of the town hall to remember the miracle that occurred in 1298, according to which St. Blaise made fake flames appear throughout the city inducing the enemy troops, who were outside the city walls waiting to attack, to retreat thinking that they had been preceded by their allies. The relics of St. Blaise are housed in the Basilica of Maratea, city of which he is the patron saint. They arrived there in 723 in a marble urn with a load that was supposed to travel from Sebastea to Rome but was interrupted at Maratea, the only city of the Basilicata region that faces the Tyrrhenian Sea, due to a storm. It is said that the walls of the Basilica and, later, the statue erected in his honor in 1963 atop of it, trickled a yellowish liquid that the devotees collected and used to cure the sick. In 1563, Pope Pius IV, bishop at that time, recognized the liquid as being “holy manna.” It is no coincidence that in Maratea the Saint is considered especially important and is celebrated twice a year: on February 3rd, as is tradition, and on the anniversary of the transfer of the relics, where celebrations go on for 8 days, from the first Saturday in May to the second Sunday of the month.

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