The Saviour of Dubrovnik: St Blaise Church

St. Blaise Church, Crkva Sv. Vlaha, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The sweetly pretty little church dedicated to Saint Blaise (St. Vlaho in Croatian), is a popular hub of Dubrovnik.  It’s an extremely picturesque spot, situated at the end of the Stradun and even the swarms of tourist groups that hang around there don’t completely stifle the charm.

St Blaise is Dubrovnik’s patron saint – the protector of Ragusa.  Literally.  On the 3rd of February 971, the city had opened its doors to Venetian ships that wanted to stock up on food and water for their travels east.  So the Venetians said, those sly rogues.  That night, Stojko, a priest, went to his church and found a celestial army led by a grizzly old man wearing a mitre and holding a staff.  The old man said that Stojko needed to tell the city fathers that the Venetians were planning an attack – in fact, he and his angels had already been fighting them off for the past few days.  Stojko asked the old man who he was.  Blaise, said the old man.

Now, I would have gone and woken the city fathers and told them who I’d just seen and what he’d just told me – but no, Stojko waited till the morning and then gave the news.  The city scrambled its defences and closed its gates.  The Venetians decided that the game was up and sailed away.  Dubrovnik had been saved.

The city still celebrates this miraculous intervention every year on the 3rd of February.  If you’d like to see what it entails, there are evocative photos here: www.thedubrovniktimes.com

 St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The current church was built on the foundations of the badly damaged Romanesque church which was ravaged by fire in 1706.  Ironically, the church had survived the 1667 earthquake and had been used as a temporary Cathedral while the new one was being rebuilt.

Modelling his design on the Venetian church of San Maurizio, the Venetian architect and sculptor Marino Gropelli got the church built in super-quick time – by 1715 it was up and running, decorated with his own sculpture along the top of the façade.

It is quite a plain church, like most in Dubrovnik, with pockets of decoration and striking sculptures – and a few interesting paintings.  It is quite a tiny space, and I can imagine that it would be a very lovely local church to spend Sundays in.

Inside St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Inside St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

In 1972, to celebrate 1000 years of St Blaise’s protection, the church commissioned new stained glass windows to designs by the local painter, Ivo Dulčić.  These are very striking, slightly ominous looking, but they actually suit the church – perhaps because they are surrounded by plain, white walls that really highlight the coloured glass.

Stained glass window, designed by Ivo Dulčić, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Stained glass window, designed by Ivo Dulčić, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Stained glass window, designed by Ivo Dulčić, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Stained glass window, designed by Ivo Dulčić, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Peter and St Paul stained glass window, designed by Ivo Dulčić, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Peter and St Paul stained glass window, designed by Ivo Dulčić, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The main altar is startlingly flamboyant in comparison to the rest of the church.  In the centre, beneath the baroque organ, are two angels flanking a display case.  This holds the  only survivor of the 1706 fire: a 15th century gilded silver statue of St Blaise, held aloft by chubby cherubs.

View of the altar, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

View of the altar, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The 15th century St Blaise in the altar of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The 15th century St Blaise in the altar of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Jerome emerging from the walls of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Jerome emerging from the walls of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Scary dude, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Scary dude, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Blaise, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Blaise, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Side altar in St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Side altar in St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Blaise pointing to Dubrovnik in a painting in St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Blaise pointing to Dubrovnik in a painting in St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The incorruptable body of St Silvan reclines under an altar.  It’s not known exactly who he was, but when he was discovered in Rome, he was, apparently, undamaged by natural decomposition processes, and he was then preserved from decay once out of his tomb by wax.  I don’t usually like such figures, but there was something very elegant about St Silvan, and his clothes are just beautifully embroidered.

St Silvan, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Silvan, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

John the Evangelist, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

John the Evangelist, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Lucy holding her eyes on a tray, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Lucy holding her eyes on a tray, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Instruments of the Passion, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Instruments of the Passion, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Outside

The outside of the church is just as worth looking at as the inside.  It’s dinky and perfectly formed, with just the right amount of decoration to make it pretty, but not so much that you just glaze over and get bored by its over excessive frippery.

Facade of the St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Facade of the St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Hope with an anchor, Marino Gropelli, 1707–1715, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Hope with an anchor, Marino Gropelli, 1707–1715, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Faith with a cross, Marino Gropelli, 1707–1715, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Faith with a cross, Marino Gropelli, 1707–1715, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Blaise, Marino Gropelli, 1707–1715, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Blaise, Marino Gropelli, 1707–1715, St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

View of St Blaise, with the Cathedral to the left, Dubrovnik, Croatia

View of St Blaise, with the Cathedral to the left, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Orlando Statue

Though not linked to the church, the statue of Orlando is positioned right outside it, and therefore I thought this would be a good place to share some information about him.

The myth is that the statue was given by legendary Roland (Orlando) to Dubrovnik during an onslaught by the Saracens.  The truth is that the myth has swallowed up the truth: though there is a suggestion that it was put up during the stay of the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund in the city in 1396, to show loyalty to the beleaguered, but politically supportive, leader.  The current statue, though, dates from 1418, and is an exact replica of the original – I’m not sure why it needed replacing.

Anyway, the statue became a symbol of Ragusan freedom, and remained so until Napoleon put an end to the Republic in 1808.  In the meantime, Orlando had been used to display the standard of Ragusa, while the bodies of traitors were displayed at his feet,  decrees and public announcements were made by heralds who stood by his side, and the Dubrovnik cubit was measured by the length of his arm.

Statue of Orlando, in front of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Statue of Orlando, in front of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Side view of the statue of Orlando, in front of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Side view of the statue of Orlando, in front of St Blaise Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

So In Summary

Since St Blaise and Ragusa have such an important link, it is clear that in terms of historical significance and indeed public affection, the church is Dubrovnik.  Even if all you do is see it from the outside, it will undoubtedly be on your route through the old town, and rightly.  It is a symbol of the city.

Further Information

Be aware that this is a working church and therefore, ironically, is often shut.  I couldn’t find any reliable information regarding possible opening hours, so getting in might just rely on pot-luck.

We visited just before Easter, April 2017.

How To Get There

As it is situated at the end of Stradun, you will find that all paths will probably lead you to St Blaise.  Should you miss it, here’s a handy map; it’s no. 16:  www.godubrovnik.com

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