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JOURNAL OF THE ABRUZZO WORLD CLUB
San Blaise is worshipped in the East and in the West, and on his festive day is worshipped the "throat blessing " rite is widespread: two crossed candles are placed on the throat always invoking his intercession. Blaise, who lived in the 4th century AD, was an Armenian physician and became bishop of Sebaste, a city in Armenia, where he made a great many miracles. In the year 316 AD Licinius, the governor of The Eastern Roman Empire under Constantine, started one of the last persecutions against the Christians, and Blaise was one of the last Christian martyrs. Under the persecution, the Saint took refuge in a cave, where the forest animals, according to the legend, brought him food; unfortunately some hunters discovered him and took him to the city prisons like a common thief.
Along the way, according to the tradition, Blaise performed the miracle which gave him the fame of protecting against throat ailments. A woman came to him through the crowd with her baby child who was dying of suffocation for a fish bone in his throat. The Saint placed his hands on the child in prayer, and the poor baby was suddenly healed. After a period in prison, Blaise was thrown into a lake, but he came out of it. So the judge ordered to torture and kill him. Before he died, seven women were killed because they were collecting the precious blood drops of the saint.
Blaise's body was buried in his Sebaste cathedral; but in 732 a sudden storm forced the ship taking his mortal remains to Rome to stop in Maratea (Potenza): the faithful hosted the saint's relics in a small church, the current basilica, on a mountain now called Monte San Biagio, where in 1963 a 21-meter high statue of the Christ the Saviour was built.
Since 1863 another town took the name of Monte San Biagio, Monticello (in province of Latina) placed on the South-Western side of Monte Calvo. Several other places in our country are entitled to him: San Biagio della Cima (Imperia), San Biagio di Callalta (Treviso), San Biagio Platani (Agrigento), San Biagio Saracinisco (Frosinone) and San Biase (Chieti). There is a statue of the Saint also on a spire of the Duomo of Milan, the city where in the past the Christmas panettone was never eaten completely, always reserving a part for our saint's feast. (and the "Saint Blaise panettone", which is left during the Christmas holidays, is still sold in Milan). But we find places taking thename of the Saint also in France, in Spain in Switzerland and the Americas.
St Blaise in Abruzzo
Taranta Peligna, a small hilly center in the province of Chieti, boasts an ancestral tradition in the devotion of this Saint, who is celebrated above all as protector of the wool workers: and it is not by chance that here they manufacture the Taranta, a typically Abruzzese blanket of decorated wool in color motifs, a testimonial of a textile artisan tradition which goes back to the XI century but is still flourishing in our days.
In 1536, the class of the wool workers joined in a confraternity, built a big church whose façade and wooden side doors can still be seen today; and exactly in the mid-16th century the tradition of the Panicelle took origin. On 31 January the members of the confraternity meet in what is called San Blaise's house and start working the flour which will serve to make the holy loaves, that is the Panicelle.
The process is slow and detailed, a true ritual that involves all the members of the confraternity and their families. Once the dough is made, they wrap it in wool cloths, and leave to rest up to complete rising. At the end of this operation the women proceed to give form to the Panicelle, placing four cords of pasta lined together in the size and form of a blessing hand.
On the panicelle San Blaise's mark is impressed, then they are taken to the ovens by the girls of the place: a true night procession. On 3rd February, at last, on the festivity of the Patron Saint, the panicelle are given to the faithful that eat them in devotion to San Blaise; a part is kept for the children, to protect them from sore throat.
San Blaise is also celebrated in Bussi, Fontecchio, Canzano e Colledimezzo.