Do you have a sore throat? So San Biagio (known in English as Saint Blaise) is your saint and over the years he has healed so many people that it has given rise to special festivals and ceremonies. He is the patron of many towns such as Anguillara Sabazia and his Feast is 3 February.
Little is known about the life of San Biagio. He is a saint known and venerated both in the West and in the East, and in fact his worship is widespread both in the Catholic and in the Orthodox Church.
He was probably born in Sebaste, in Armenia, and spent his youth in his studies, devoting himself especially to medicine. A lover of religious life, at the death of the Bishop of Sebaste he was elected as his successor.
From that moment his life was entirely spent for the good of his faithful. At that time the persecution unleashed by Diocletian was raging in Armenia by the leaders, Lisia and Agricola.
The latter, immediately began a feverish activity in search of Biagio, the bishop of about whom he constantly heard praise. Having learned of the persecution, in order not to leave the faithful without guidance, Biagio took refuge in a cave of Mount Argeo.
For a long time he remained hidden in that solitude, living in constant prayer and continuing to rule the church with secret messages. One day, however, a group of soldiers managed to get to his cave, arrested him and took him to the principal. The journey from the mountain to the city was a real triumph, because the people came to hail him in crowds so much was the veneration.
Among many people came a poor woman in tears who, holding her dying child in her arms, implored the saint to ask God for the healing of her son. A thorn of fish had lodged in his throat and seemed about to choke him at any moment.
Biagio, moved by compassion, raised his eyes to heaven and made the sign of the cross on the sufferer. The child was miraculously healed.
When he arrived in Sebaste, he was led to the judge Agricola who wanted to convince him to renounce religious worship. After refusing, he was beaten with sticks and thrown into prison.
After some time he was again called to court. Increasingly steadfast in the decision not to renounce God, his flesh was torn with iron combs and he was suspended from a tree trunk. He was finally sentenced to be drowned in a lake.
The executioners threw him into the water and while everyone expected to see him drown, Biagio quietly began to walk on the water until he reached the opposite bank. The judge, seeing that he could not otherwise extinguish that prodigious life, had him beheaded. San Biagio is remembered by the church on 3 February.
Where San Biagio (Saint Blaise) is celebrated
He is the patron saint of Anguillara Sabazia and of Maratea, where his relics are kept. These arrived at Maratea in 732, when a ship ran aground due to a storm. The inhabitants of the place reached the boat to save the people and found there, as well as the crew, the relics preserved in a marble urn, which was brought to the top of the mountain where it remained guarded.
It is tradition to introduce, in the middle of the liturgical celebration, a special blessing for the “throats” of the faithful, imparted by the parish priest by crossing two candles (in ancient times blessed oil was used). Someone prepares traditional sweets with particular shapes reminiscent of the saint that are blessed by the parish priest and then distributed to the faithful.
Very interesting is the popular tradition of Milan where the family used to celebrate by eating the remains of panettoni left over specially from Christmas.
Monte San Biagio the ‘Panicelle’ of San Biagio
In Monte San Biagio, a small village perched on the slopes of the Monti Ausoni, every year on February 3rd the Patronal Festival is celebrated with a fair in the adjacent historic centre of the town. On February 3, the religious procession takes place which includes three stops for the blessing of the districts and sets out along the alleys of the historic centre. On the following Sunday the religious festival is repeated.
The program of festivities begins around January 25 with the exhibition of the bust of the saint, and ends after February 10, with the day of celebration for the Ottavario (eighth day of prayer) di San Biagio.
Tradition has it that every year the ‘panicelle’ of San Biagio are distributed, typical pagnottelle (loaves) made with whole wheat flour, water and various flavours, processed in such a way as to form five fingers.
The panicelle are prepared by the faithful in the days before the festival and then distributed to the devotees in exchange for an offering in the church.
Rocca Priora, the blessed oil and the Confraternity of San Biagio since 1660
In Rocca Priora, from the end of January, the celebrations for the patron saint of the throat, San Biagio, have been organized by the local Confraternity with a program that ends after February 20th. San Biagio is the protector of the throat and one of the patrons of Rocca Priora.
The Confraternity of San Biagio was born in 1660 and still today, thanks to the commitment and devotion of its confreres, preserves the religious and cultural traditions of the town. On 3 February the Holy Mass is celebrated, during which the “promises of the confraternity” are renewed, the throat blessed and the Blessed oil distributed.
At the end of the ceremony, a solemn procession with the Brotherhoods of neighbouring towns runs through the streets of the old town. Alongside the sacred celebrations, the programme includes the tasty “Sagra della Polenta” (Feast of Polenta). The celebrations in honour of San Biagio end after February 20 with the Holy Mass for the deceased confreres and with the transfer of the painting of the saint to the house of the new “Festarolo”, that is, the master of ceremonies that every year is chosen among the population .
San Biagio Saracinisco and the kiss of the Relic
Every year on February 3, the small community of San Biagio Saracinisco honours its patron. It is a simple festival and, given the weather at this time, limited only to religious celebrations.
The feast is held in the advanced summer when, taking advantage of the summer holidays, most of the Sanbiagese residents abroad return to their native village.
On February 3, however, a mass is celebrated with a procession through the streets of the old town, the blessing of the throat and the Kiss of the Reliquia conclude the day.
Giuliano di Roma and the Oil of Saint Blaise
The patron saint of Giuliano di Roma is San Biagio, who is celebrated on 3 February.
On the occasion of his feast it is tradition to bless the oil of San Biagio that then the priest, using a candle, uses to anoint the throats of the faithful. It is also customary to bring San Biagio oil to sick people who cannot go to church to receive it.
There are two statues of San Biagio, an old one in wood and a wax statue, dressed in ancient robes. Both are kept in the parish church. San Biagio is also celebrated on the last Sunday of August. Both on February 3 and in August, processions are made with the statue of the Saint.
It is possible that the “summer” festival of San Biagio was established to commemorate the dedication ceremony of the church of San Biagio which took place on the last Sunday of August 1739.
In fact, unlike February 3, the procession of August in honour of San Biagio, left the church, after the celebration of vespers and the anointing of the throat. In August the Patron Saint is celebrated with two processions: one on Saturday evening with a wooden statue with the torchlight procession that starts from the ancient church dedicated to it and the other on Sunday morning with the baroque statue.
Marina di Minturno between Candelora and the San Biagio bread
The parish of Marina di Minturno honours the patron San Biagio, beginning the celebrations at the end of January with the procession with the icon of San Biagio that starts from the church of the Sisters of the Garden (Orto).
The venerated icon of San Biagio arrives in the late afternoon in the parish church for the celebration of Mass on 2 February. In the afternoon, before Mass, the traditional blessing of candles takes place on Candlemas Day.
On February 3, the liturgical day of the feast of the Saint, two masses are celebrated in the parish church, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with blessing of the throat and distribution of the bread of San Biagio.
Marta, the anointing of the Throat, dried figs and citrus fruits
San Biagio is a patron of Marta together with Santa Marta. The festival is very important to the villagers and is celebrated every 3 February with a predominantly religious character. In the days of that eve the solemn vespers mark the beginning of the festival.
The next morning, after the solemn mass, the traditional procession takes place with the bust-reliquary of the saint that crosses most of the town accompanied by the 3 confraternities, the band, the clergy, the civil authorities.
The ritual of anointing of the throat that takes place from the very first afternoon and continues until late evening in the parish church is also very felt. During this ritual a cross mark is traced on the believers’ throat in a row by means of a calenda immersed in the chrismal oil.
A special feature of this ceremony is that dried figs and citrus fruits are also blessed, which are then consumed by the devotees. In Marta, the conclusion of the festival coincides with the beginning of the Carnival.
Veroli and the “Cellitti de S. Biagio”
On February 3rd the feast of San Biagio Vescovo is celebrated in Veroli. The faithful of the whole territory come to the centre to attend the Eucharistic celebration held in the Cathedral of St. Andrew.
On this occasion, the throat is blessed with the blessed oil. The nuns, together with some parishioners, prepare hundreds of wads of cotton wool greased in the blessed oil to be distributed to the sick, the elderly, children and to those who for various reasons cannot attend the Eucharistic celebration.
Masses are held in the morning and in the afternoon while in the square many stalls offer the “Cellitti de S. Biagio”, pastry cakes, freshly baked and excellent to taste. Women traditionally go to church for the blessing of sweets that are then eaten at the table together with the whole family.
Palombara Sabina and the “Mazzette” of the Saint
On February 3 the Feast of the Patron Saint, San Biagio, takes place in the Church of San Biagio in Palombara Sabina, with a liturgical day that begins in the morning with the Solemn Mass.
The ancient “Mazzette” of the Saint, or the statuettes of the Saint that must be kept until the following year, are collected at the old Festaroli in the morning and delivered to the new ones in the afternoon. The Festaroli are the people in charge of organizing the festival: every year they are chosen from among the population and a passing of the baton takes place between the current organizers and the future ones. During the patronal festival, on February 3, the statues of the saint are brought into the church and the blessing of the throats of the many faithful takes place.
The feast is enlivened by the music of the band “Città di Palombara Sabina”.
Marano Equo and the Mongolfiera
The celebrations in honour of San Biagio, the patron saint of the town of Marano Equo, are very popular and start in the morning, when the saint’s effigy is carried in procession through the streets of the village. Then there is the spectacular departure of the balloon, made with multicolored tissue paper.
In the days leading up to the festival, the women of Marano Equo prepare the characteristic donuts with anise, particularly tasty if they are dipped in local wine. The process has been handed down from mother to daughter, and the donuts are offered to all the participants at the festival.
In Sacrofano we the Patron Saint Biagio is celebrated on 3 February in a solemn way. On the occasion of the blessing of the throats at the Church dedicated to the Saint, two small candles placed around the neck of the faithful are arranged as if they were a cross, a symbol of divine protection of the throat of the faithful. Then follows a parade of the band that crosses the streets and squares of the centre until the end of the festivities.
In Subiaco the inhabitants go early in the morning to the small hermitage on Monte Taleo, built in 1110 by Abbot Giovanni V and dedicated to the worship of San Biagio. Respecting the ancient custom, visitors undergo the ritual of anointing the throat with blessed oil by a monk from the nearby Sacro Speco di San Benedetto. After having received the anointing, everyone settles in the meadows surrounding the church, where they light fires to cook sausages and other local products.
In addition, in Lazio, San Biagio is also celebrated in the villages of Vignanello, Corchiano, Cantalupo in Sabina, and San Vito Romano.