Martyrdom has become juxtaposed with suicide bombers, but there was a time when it meant not relinquishing your faith, despite the threat of torture or even death. One such man was St Blaise He was a physician, and bishop of Sebastea in historical Armenia (modern Sivas, Turkey). According to Acta Sanctorum,
he was martyred by being beaten, attacked with iron carding combs, and beheaded.
In iconography (see top picture), Blaise is often shown with the instruments of his martyrdom, steel combs. He blessed throats and effected many miracles according to his hagiography. The similarity of these instruments of torture to wool combs led to his adoption as the patron saint of wool combers in particular, and the wool trade in general. He may also be depicted with crossed candles. Such crossed candles are used for the blessing of throats on his feast day, which falls on 3 February, the day after Candlemas on the Roman Catholic calendar of saints. Blaise is traditionally believed to intercede in cases of throat illnesses, especially for fish-bones stuck in the throat.
The first reference of him is in manuscripts of the medical writings of Aëtius Amidenus, a court physician at the very end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century; there his aid is invoked in treating objects stuck in the throat. He cured animals and lived in a cave. Before being killed, he spoke to a wolf and told it to release a pig it was harming. The wolf did so. Blaise was going to be starved but the owner of the pig secretly gave him food in order to survive. After a while, he was tortured because of his Christian faith but did not give up his beliefs. He died in the year 316.
Cult of Saint Blaise
Statue of Saint Blaise at Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc.
His cult became widespread in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries. St. Blaise is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers or Auxiliary Saints and his legend is recounted in the 14th-century Legenda Aurea. Saint Blaise is the saint of the wild beast.
He is the patron of the Armenian Order of Saint Blaise. In Italy he is known as San Biagio. In Spanish-speaking countries, he is known as San Blas, and has lent his name to many places.
In Italy, Saint Blaise’s remains rest at the Basilica over the town of Maratea, shipwrecked there during Leo III the Isaurian’s iconoclastic persecutions.
Church of St. Blasius in Dubrovnik
Saint Blaise (Croatian: Sveti Vlaho or Sveti Blaž) is the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik and formerly the protector of the independent Republic of Ragusa. At Dubrovnik his feast is celebrated yearly on 3 February, when relics of the saint, his head, a bit of bone from his throat, his right hand and his left, are paraded in reliquaries.
The festivities begin the previous day, Candlemas, when white doves are released. Chroniclers of Dubrovnik such as Rastic and Ranjina attribute his veneration there to a vision in 971 to warn the inhabitants of an impending attack by the Venetians, whose galleys had dropped anchor in Gruž and near Lokrum, ostensibly to resupply their water but furtively to spy out the city’s defenses. St. Blaise (Blasius) revealed their pernicious plan to Stojko, a canon of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The Senate summoned Stojko, who told them in detail how St. Blaise had appeared before him as an old man with a long beard and a bishop’s mitre and staff. In this form the effigy of Blaise remained on Dubrovnik’s state seal and coinage until the Napoleonic era.
Conclusion: Nobody should have to die for their faith.