The Hieromartyr Blaise (Blasius), Bishop of Sebaste, was known for his
righteous and devout life. Unanimously chosen by the people, he was
consecrated Bishop of Sebaste. This occurred during the reign of the
Roman emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Licinius (307-324), fierce
persecutors of Christians. St Blaise encouraged his flock, visited the
imprisoned, and gave support to the martyrs.
Many hid themselves from the persecutors by going off to desolate and
solitary places. St Blaise also hid himself away on Mount Argeos,
where he lived in a cave. Wild beasts came up to him and meekly waited
until the saint finished his prayer and blessed them. The saint also
healed sick animals by laying his hands upon them.
The refuge of the saint was discovered by servants of the governor
Agrilaus, who had come to capture wild beasts to loose on the
Christian martyrs. The servants reported to their master that
Christians were hiding on the mountain, and he gave orders to arrest
them. But those sent out found there only the Bishop of Sebaste.
Glorifying God Who had summoned him to this exploit, St Blaise
followed the soldiers.
Along the way the saint healed the sick and worked other miracles.
Thus, a destitute widow complained to him of her misfortune. A wolf
had carried off a small pig, her only possession. The bishop smiled
and said to her, "Do not weep, your pigl will be returned to you...."
To the astonishment of everyone, the wolf came running back and
returned his prey unharmed.
Agrilaus, greeting the bishop with words of deceit, called him a
companion of the gods. The saint answered the greeting, but he called
the gods devils. Then they beat him and led him off to prison.
On the next day, they subjected the saint to tortures again. When they
led him back to the prison, seven women followed behind and gathered
up the drops of blood. They arrested them and tried to compel them to
worship the idols. The women pretended to consent to this and said
that first they needed to wash the idols in the waters of a lake. They
took the idols and threw them in a very deep part of the lake, and
after this the Christians were fiercely tortured. The saints stoically
endured the torments, strengthened by the grace of God, their bodies
were transformed and became white as snow. One of the women had two
young sons, who implored their mother to help them attain the Kingdom
of Heaven, and she entrusted them to the care of St Blaise. The seven
holy women were beheaded.
St Blaise was again brought before Agrilaus, and again he
unflinchingly confessed his faith in Christ. The governor ordered that
the martyr be thrown into a lake. The saint, going down to the water,
signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, and he walked on it as
though on dry land.
Addressing the pagans standing about on shore, he challenged them to
come to him while calling on the help of their gods. Sixty-eight men
of the governor's retinue entered the water, and immediately drowned.
The saint, however, heeding the angel who had appeared to him,
returned to shore.
Agrilaus was in a rage over losing his finest servants, and he gave
orders to behead St Blaise, and the two boys entrusted to him, the
sons of the martyr. Before his death, the martyr prayed for the whole
world, and especially for those honoring his memory. This occurred in
about the year 316.
The relics of the Hieromartyr Blaise were brought to the West during
the time of the Crusades, and portions of the relics are preserved in
many of the lands of Europe [and his memory traditionally honored
there on February 3].
We pray to St Blaise for the health of domestic animals, and for
protection from wild beasts.
Venerable Shio Mgvime
Commemorated on February 11
The Georgian Orthodox Church commemorates St. Shio of Mgvime several
times throughout the year. St. John of Zedazeni and his twelve
disciples, among whom was St. Shio of Mgvime, are commemorated on May
7; the repose of St. Shio is celebrated on May 9; and on Cheese-fare
Thursday the Church celebrates the miracle that, for centuries,
occurred every year at St. Shio’s grave.
The 19th-century historian Marie Brosset wrote that every year prior
to the 18th century, on Cheese-fare Thursday, the relics of St. Shio
rose up out of the ground from the place of their burial. Those who
approached them in faith and reverence received healing of their
In the 18th century the Persian shah Nadir (1736–1747) invaded
Georgia. Hearing about this miracle and becoming convinced of its
truth, the enraged shah assailed the monastery and destroyed the
shrine containing the saint’s holy relics. A group of Christians later
gathered St. Shio’s holy relics and reburied them in their former
place, but to this day they have never risen again.
One thing that should be noted about Saint Blaise is that his name in
most of the Orthodox countries is not Blaise, but Vlahos. Vlahos was
himself a Vlah, also spelled Vlach, i.e. an Aroumanian indigenous
shepherd of the Balkans, and may originally have had another name, who
knows?. The Dalmatian coast off Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and
Greece are particularly full of monuments to him and many monasteries
in the Balkans preserve his moshti, i.e. relics of his bones. His
life is particularly featured in Dubrovni,, where he is the patron
saint of the city and in which city the Dominican monastery holds a
particularly large relic. But he is feautred in the Orthodox churches
there as well, beloved as he is.
There are numerous Sebastes, by the way, and so it would take looking
up some of the other names in his life to see which precise one it
might have been. The Wikipedia lists these:
* Elaiussa Sebaste near Mersin, Turkey, the place most often meant
by the name
* Sebaste in Uşak Province, Turkey; present-day Sivaslı which
continues the same name
* Sivas in Sivas Province, Turkey
* Sebaste near Nablus in the West Bank
* Sebaste, Antique province in the Philippines
but there are others, considering the meaning of the name. Certainly,
if it were to be the same place as the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, this
Sebaste would be in Nicomedea, and there would be plenty caves to
support him living in one. Modern day Erciyes in Kayseri used to be
And we can finally solve that question by reverting to his life from
the Prologue of Ohrid, probably ripped off directly from the Greek
synaxarion, which has:
The Priestly-Martyr Blaise
Blaise was born in the Province of Cappadocia. From his early
childhood, he was God-fearing and meek. Because of his great virtues,
he was chosen as bishop of the city of Sebastea (in Armenia). Blaise
was a great spiritual and moral beacon in this pagan city. At the time
of a grave persecution of Christians, St. Blaise encouraged his flock
and visited the martyrs of Christ in prison, especially among them was
the eminent and glorious Eustratius. When the city of Sebastea was
completely depleted of Christians - some were slain, and others fled -
the Elder Blaise withdrew to Mt. Argeos and settled there in a cave.
Wild beasts recognized the holy man, gathered around him and he
tenderly caressed them. But the persecutors found the saint in this
remote place and brought him to trial. Along the way, Blaise cured a
young boy who had a bone caught in his throat. To the plea of the poor
widow whose pig had been snatched by a wolf, the saint, by the power
of his prayer, commanded the wolf to return it. The sinister judges
tortured Blaise severely: flogging him and scrapping him with an iron
comb. By his steadfastness in the Faith of Christ, Blaise converted
many pagans to the Faith. Seven women and two children languished in
prison with him. The women were beheaded first and, after that, the
wonderful Blaise with these two children was beheaded. He suffered and
was glorified in the year 316 A.D. People pray to St. Blaise for the
well being of their domestic livestock and for protection against wild
beasts. However, in the west, he is also invoked for diseases of the
This difficult time features heavily in our Orthodox collection of
Lives of the saints and among them in the same general period, we can
recall the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, martyred a few years later, as I
mentioned above. The Wikipedia has a fair rendition:
Among the earlier Balkan iconography of the forty martyrs unmentioned
in this article, I will mention the frescoes in Ohrid.
I have been in Cappadocia in winter, and its volcanic rock terrain is
incredible. Finding photos immediately online is not so easy, but
here you can get a sense of how the area he hid in after leaving
Sebaste is in winter by taking a look on this website at day 7:
Something about the mountain is here:
Oops, sorry, the 40 martys at St. Sophia in Ohrid is mentioned in the
Wikipedia article. The forty martyrs icon at Dunbarton Oaks in
Washington, DC is really quite a wonder such that I go with family
from time to time just to see it again. Unfortunately, the internet
seems not to provide a good photo such that the individual mosaic
tiles can be seen, which you can if you see it in person. It is one
of the most incredible pieces of iconography in the world and a wonder
that it ended up where I live:
* St. Ecian of Ireland
* St. Gobnet of Ballyvourney
St. Ecian, Bishop in Ireland
St Ecian or Etchen was a 6th-century Bishop and founder of the
Clonfad, Co Westmeath. A school named in his honour gives this brief
of his life:
St Etchen the patron Saint of this school was born in 490AD. He
Monastery in Confad and is most famous for his ordination of St.
to the Priesthood. St Etchen is honoured as a patron
saint of ploughmen and farmers. Indeed the statue of St. Etchen in
Church depicts him as a ploughman. He died on the 11th of February in
St. Etchen is buried in Clonfad Cemetry.
St Etchen also features in the Life of St Colman, son of Luachan,
Mullingar), where he is said to have ordained the 3 Colmans - Colman,
Luachan, Colman of Elo and Colman Comraire. Bishop Etchen is depicted
having been the tutor to Colman, son of Luachan, who 'read the psalms
the hymns and the whole order of the Church with him'. Angels would
come as far as the cell in which he was to converse with Colman, but
envy of the other students was aroused and Bishop Etchen sent Colman
study with Mochuta of Rahen.
St. Gobnata (Gobnet, Gobnait) of Ballyvourney, Virgin
6th century One of the most popular of the saints of Munster, she was
born in County Clare but had to flee from enemies and took refuge in
Isle of Aran, where there is a church at Inisheer, Kilgobnet, Gobnat's
church. After a time an angel appeared and told her that this was not
be "the place of her resurrection" but she must make a journey until
came upon nine white deer and this would be the sign for her to settle
and build a monastery.
So she set out to search for the spot that God had chosen for her and
she founded churches on the way, among them Dunguin in County Kerry
Dungarven in County Waterford. It was in County Cork that she saw
white deer near Cloudrohid; then at Ballymakeera she saw six and going
further she arrived at Ballyvourney and found nine grazing near a
There she founded her monastery.
Saint Abban of Kilabban, County Meath, Ireland, is said to have worked
with her on the foundation of the convent in Ballyvourney, County
on land donated by the O'Herlihy family, and to have placed Saint
over it as abbess.
St Gobnat had a particular calling to care for the sick and she is
credited with saving the people at Ballyvourney from the plague. She
also regarded as the Patroness of bees. Gobnata (meaning "Honey Bee",
which is the equivalent of the Hebrew "Deborah") Of course honey is a
useful ingredient in many medicines but she is said to have driven off
brigand by sending a swarm of bees after him and making him restore
cattle he had stolen. In fact she seems to have been very able in
dealing with brigands. Set in the wall of the ruined church at
Ballyvourney there is a round stone, which she is said to have used as
sort of boomerang to prevent the building of a castle by another
on the other side of the valley from her monastery. Every time he
building she sent the stone across and knocked down the walls, as fast
as he could build, until he gave up in despair.
There is a field near to the village called the Plague Field
commemorating the area she marked out as consecrated ground, across
which the plague could not pass. The "Tomhas Ghobnata", which is the
Gaelic for Gobnat's measure, a length of wool measured against her
statue, is still in demand for healing, and in the church a much worn
wooden statue of the thirteenth century is preserved and shown on her
festival. At Killeen there is Gobnat's Stone, an early cross pillar
has a small figure bearing a crozier on one side.
A well still exists at Ballyvourney that is named after her. As with
many Irish saints, there are stories of wondrous interactions with
Her grave in the churchyard at Ballyvourney is decorated with crutches
and other evidence of cures obtained through Gobnata's intercession.
Among the miracles attributed to her intercession were the staying of
pestilence by marking off the parish as sacred ground. Another
relates that she routed an enemy by loosing her bees upon them. Her
beehive has remained a precious relic of the O'Herlihys.
There are some photographs of the statue and someone taking Gobnait's
measure at this site:
A second story from the same site gives a little more detail about
St Gobnait's Statue is of oak, and shows traces of five coatings of
over a gesso base on the wood. It is twenty seven inches high. The
hollowed out from shoulders to base. It is worn from being touched and
only surviving feature is one large eye. That it never fell into the
of those who would destroy it shows how closely it was guarded.
Only four similar statues have survived. They are - St Maolruain,
Tallaght, St Molua of Killaloe, St Mo-Cheallog and St Molaise, the
Inishmurray whose image is in the National
Museum. All date from the 13th century, as is apparent from the large
and narrow shoulders.
The round stone associated with her is still preserved. In art, Saint
Gobnata is represented as a beekeeper.
Troparion of St Gobnet tone 3
As a spiritual child of the God inspired Abban/ thou didst worthily
guide many into monastic virtue, most holy Gobnet./ Wherefore we
thee to intercede for us/ that we may be guided aright/ and be found
worthy of the great mercy of Christ our God.
Kontakion of St Gobnet tone 5
Praise and honour are thy due/ O physician of bodies and souls,/ most
pious Gobnet./ As thou, being blessed with the gift of healing,/ didst
bring to many the wholeness and peace of Christ,/ pray now for us that
our tormented souls/ may come to know the joy of godly healing.
Benedictine Monks of Saint Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.
D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul,
Minnesota: Irish American Cultural Institute.
Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Flanagan, L A.(1990) Chronicle of Irish Saints.
The Blackstaff Press, Belfast.
Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.
Neeson, E. (1967). Book of Irish Saints. Cork: Mercer Press.
O'Hanlon, J. (1875). Lives of Irish saints, 10 vol. Dublin.
Sullivan, A. M. (1867). Story of Ireland. Dublin: M. H. Gill.
For All the Saints:
An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West
These Lives are archived at: