Who you gonna call?
Perhaps a man who was martyred early in the 4th Century?
St Blaise, St Blazey, San Biagio, St Blasius, San Blas; his reputation spread throughout the Christian world, so what made him so influential? (In Croatia he is Sveti Vlaho.)
The former physician turned bishop miraculously cured a child who was choking on a fishbone (thus becoming the patron saint of throat problems). His execution consisted of being beaten with a stick, having his flesh ripped off with iron combs (hence the patron saint of wool combers) before he was beheaded. That death at the hands of the Romans was by virtue of his religion rather than as a result of any significant political act.
On route to Sebastea for his execution he reputedly intervened when meeting an old woman whose pig had been snatched by a wolf, Blaise somehow persuading the wolf to release the pig to the woman. To repay this act she apparently brought two candles to light his cell as he awaited his end.
His remains rest in the Italian town of Maratea’s basilica, or at least some of them do. Parts of him are also to be found in Dubrovnik, where he finally seems to have done something of note. Over 600 years after his death in Turkey, he appeared in a vision to a priest of St Stephen’s cathedral in the Croatian city, to warn of an attack by the duplicitous Venetians whose fleet had anchored nearby, ostensibly to refresh their water supplies, but according to Blaise, to assess Dubrovnik’s defences. Why this long-dead Armenian should feel the need to intervene in the politics of two Mediterranean city states is unclear.
Whatever the spectre’s motivation, he was immediately venerated in the city, remaining part of the states iconography until Napoleon’s arrival centuries later (ironically the same individual who ended Venetian independence). Blaise’s head and hands (and of course a part of his throat) are paraded each year on the 3rd of February,
In modern-day Dubrovnik the Saint’s patronage lives on. You can barely turn a corner without encountering some image of Blaise, who is characterised by the model of Dubrovnik that he carries with him. If you think you’ve heard this story before, then you may be confusing him with Petronius of Bologna, who also had a predilection for miniaturised municipalities.
Mistaken identity is easily avoided though – the twin towers of Bologna make it easy to spot that city’s patron if you should bump into them both at a party.
I’d never come across St Blaise before Dubrovnik, and then what should I find on a day in Richmond, North Yorkshire? Not sure a pub is an appropriate tribute!