Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Relics of St Blaise in Croatia

For simplicity’s sake, I have titled this post “relics of St Blaise”, but it actually includes several different things related to him, all from our long-time Ambrosian contributor Nicola de’ Grandi. Two summers ago, Nicola visited a number of cities in Croatia, among them Dubrovnik, which honors St Blaise as its patron. The cathedral, which is dedicated to the Assumption, has these relics of his leg, arm and head,
and several others in this very elaborate piece of furniture, which also houses a considerable number of other Saints,
while the local Franciscan church has this relic of his other leg, in a reliquary of the 15th century.
Formerly known as Ragusa (a name which it shared with a small city in Sicily), Dubrovnik was part of the Venetian Republic from 1205 to 1358, when it became an independent state of its own right, while maintaining close cultural ties with its former ruler, which was very much the dominant maritime power in the Adriatic; the Republic of Ragusa remained independent until 1808. Unfortunately, the city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1667. In 1715, an architect from Venice named Marino Gropelli rebuilt the principal church of St Blaise in Ragusa in a typically Venetian Baroque style.
Over the high altar is preserved a 15th century gold statue of the Saint, a work of local manufacture which was the only object to survive the destruction of the previous building in the earthquake of 1667.
The façade is very similar to those of several contemporary churches in Venice.
A closer few of the Baroque gargoyle on the side of the church.
A side altar of the church contains the relics of a different Saint, a martyr named Silvanus.
A statue of St Blaise.
Coins of the Republic of Ragusa decorated with images of St Blaise, from the museum housed in the former palace of the republic’s chief magistrate, known as the rector.
Relics of St Blaise in main altar of the basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Agliate, a small town a bit more than 16½ miles to the north of Milan.

From the civic museum of Palazzo Chiericati in Vicenza, three episodes from the legend of St Blaise by an anonymous painter known as the Master of the Sagramoso Library, ca. 1510. As recounted in the Golden Legend, St Blaise, bishop of a town called Sebaste in Armenia, fled to the wilderness from the persecution of Diocletian, and lived as a hermit in a cave. When soldiers were sent to find him, they saw that a large number of wild beasts tamely stood before him.
Blaise is tied to a post and his skin is tortured with iron combs, which are often used as his symbol. The women of the Christian community who are mopping up his blood as relics are also eventually martyred.
The Saint is decapiated along with two other Christians. Before he dies, “he prays the Lord that whosoever shall ask for his help for an ailment of the throat or any other ailment will be heard an immediately delivered.” A prayer of this sort right before martyrdom is the common factor in the lives of the Saints known as the Fourteen Holy Helpers, among whom he is traditionally counted.
Last but not least, from the civic museum of Ancona, the Gozzi Altarpiece, 1520, by Titian (1490 ca. - 1576); originally commissioned by a merchant from Ragusa named Alvise Gozzi for the church of St Francis in Ancona.
Gozzi is shown at the lower right in the expensive black cloth of a prosperous merchant, kneeling in prayer with the patron Saint of his city next to him, and St Francis, the titular Saint of the church where the painting was originally displayed, in fromt of him. The lagoon in the background represents the dominion of Venice, the artist’s native place. The painting is meant to symbolized the union of the Christian maritime cities of the Adriatic against the ever-growing threat of the Turks, and was also an ex voto for the deliverance of Gozzi’s family from an earthquake in 1516.
“Aloysius Gotius Ragusinus fecit fieri MDXX. Titianus Cadorius pinxit. – Alvise Gozzi of Ragusa had this made in 1520. Titian of (Pieve di) Cadore (the town on the Venetian Republic’s mainland where he was born) painted it.”

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