Dubrovnik – A thousand year old Feast of St. Vlaho

Dubrovnik – A thousand year old Feast of St. Vlaho
Dubrovnik, the most famous Croatian tourist destination, has been celebrating the feast of its patron saint, Saint Vlaho for more than a thousand years. This tradition is deeply rooted among the population of Dubrovnik and its value is increasingly recognized by tourists. The fact that this is indeed a real treasure beyond local boundaries was confirmed by UNESCO, which included it on the list of the world's protected intangible cultural heritage. This happened thirty years after the city of Dubrovnik was included on the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage in 1979.

St.Vlaho has been celebrated by the people of Dubrovnik since 972. Rarely can one find a city whose identity is inextricably connected with its patron saint, as is Dubrovnik’s. Numerous cultural, entertainment, music and sporting events are held in his honor during the Feast in early February. The city is then ceremoniously decorated and illuminated, and visited by residents of surrounding areas who attract attention with the richness of their original national ethnic costumes.

The celebration begins on the Feast of St Mary Candelora on the 2nd of February, with the releasing of white doves, symbols of freedom and peace in front of the saint's church and the rising of Vlaho`s flags in a central location in the old town, onto the column of Orlando.

On the 3rd of February, the day of the Feast, a solemn Mass is held in the open, and from here starts a religious procession of church dignitaries and believers with banners and flags who flocked to the city from all over the Dubrovnik region. The relics of St. Vlaho are carried through Stradun (the main street) and other city streets and the grandest of all relics of the Dubrovnik cathedral - Jesus' swaddling clothes - is carried under a canopy. According to the legend, Saint Vlaho was chosen by Dubrovnik as its protector after the events that occurred in 971, when the Venetian fleet sailed into Dubrovnik`s watres with 112 ships. They intended to fraudulently take over Dubrovnik by saying that they were heading towards Greece. The citizens of Dubrovnik were not suspicious and welcomed the Venetians warmly. In the Cathedral of St. Stjepan, which was later destroyed by an earthquake, the pious dum Stojko prayed long into the night.Suddenly he saw a church full of armed soldiers and among them stood a grey bearded old man with a cane in his hand who explained that he was a bishop, martyr St. Vlaho, sent from heaven to defend Dubrovnik. Heavenly soldiers with his help defended the city walls form the Venetians all night. Vlaho said to Stojko to tell the people of Dubrovnik that they now need to protect themselves alone. Stojko rushed to give this message to the Dubrovnik Council, and the Venetians sailed away the very the next day. The festivity of St. Vlaho, which each year gathers a large number of visitors, is surely the most important ecclesiastical and secular event of the local population, but also a unique tourist attraction.

The Tourist Board of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County

The Tourist Board of Dubrovnik

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