Juliana of Liege vs. Blaise

And suddenly it was Friday. Welcome to the last matchup of another full week of first round matchups. Today, it's Juliana of Liege vs. Blaise. Medieval nun and mystic vs. bishop and martyr of the early church.

Yesterday, Oscar (aka Ansgar) swept past Felix of Burgundy 53% to 47% to make it to the Saintly Sixteen.

We'll see everyone first thing Monday morning as we prepare for our final three matchups of the First Round. First up, it's Emma of Hawaii vs. Hugh of Lincoln Then, on Thursday, we continue our journey with the start of the Saintly Sixteen. Onward!

Juliana of Liege

Juliana of Liege was a nun and mystic in twelfth-century Belgium. Like many of her fellow female monastics in Liege, she deeply revered the eucharist.

At five years of age, she and her twin sister, Agnes, were orphaned and taken to be raised in an orphanage adjacent to the double monastery outside of Liege, a city east of Brussels. Eight years later, she entered the order and worked at their hospice, caring for lepers. At the age of sixteen, she began to experience visions of a full moon crossed over by a dark stripe. She understood that the moon represented the church, and it was divided by an absence because it did not celebrate a feast of Corpus Christi.

Only a lowly nun, she initially kept her visions to herself, then shared them with a small group of women she trusted within the monastery. As she gained seniority and respect, she was elected prioress in 1225. She began to confide her visions to her confessor, Canon John, who counted as friend many influential clerics of the church, men who went on to become bishops, archdeacons, and even a pope (Urban IV). He shared her visions with these men, who agreed the idea of the feast was theologically sound. From there, Juliana and her friend Canon John began to compose the initial version of the Latin Office of the Feast of Corpus Christi. Some 700 years later, a composite manuscript containing this original office was discovered in the National Library of the Netherlands in the Hague by Belgian Benedictine Cyrille Lambot.

Juliana’s later life was one of upheaval as her monastery and indeed the whole church was caught up in conflicts between religious and political groups fighting for control of power and resources. Juliana was forced out of the monastery at Liege by an unscrupulous secular administrator. From there, she lived a wandering life moving between Cistercian houses. She died isolated from her friends in 1258.

Juliana’s liturgical work paved the way for Pope Urban IV to establish the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Pentecost as a feast for the whole Latin Church. For this, she is counted not only as a saint but also one of the earliest female liturgists of medieval Europe.

Collect for Juliana of Liege

O God, by whose grace your servant Juliana of Liege, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Amber Belldene


At first glance, when encountering Blaise among the church’s saints, it can be quite easy to cough, clear one’s throat, and skip ahead. Plenty of saints have plenty of legends, and a lesser-known saint can be easy to pass over. Yet Blaise’s witness and the observation of his feast reveals a curious history.

Saint Blaise was believed to have been the bishop of Sebaste in historical Armenia (modern-day Turkey) in the early fourth century. He was martyred in the final stages of the Great Persecution under Emperor Licinius, making Blaise a victim of superbly unlucky timing—that same emperor, together with Constantine, would ultimately author the Edict of Milan in 313 CE granting toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire.

Blaise was born to noble parents, raised as a Christian, and, according to legend, was made a bishop at a young age. During the persecution, Blaise withdrew to a mountain cave under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, where he lived among and blessed sick and wounded animals. Blaise is best remembered for the occasion when a mother brought him her young boy, who was choking from a fishbone lodged in his throat and near death. At Blaise’s hands, the child was healed and restored to health. The same woman later brought Blaise food and candles when he was imprisoned for his faith. Ultimately, Blaise was ordered tortured with iron combs to the skin and beheaded.

The intercession and healing of the young boy would later place Blaise among the Fourteen Holy Helpers, saints and healers of the church to whom the faithful would pray with particular devotion during the bubonic plague of the fourteenth century. Given his manner of death, Blaise is also kept as the patron saint of wool combers and the patron for the cure of cattle diseases. Blaise’s feast is kept on February 3, and owing to his healing of the young boy, the blessing of throats is a practice kept on that day. Those with throat diseases (or those whose throats may be particularly subject to use, such as singers and choristers) are blessed by the placement of two candles crossed at the throat, with the prayer: “through the intercession of Saint Blaise, may God deliver you from maladies of the throat and from all other evil.”

Collect for Blaise

Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Blaise: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

David Sibley


Juliana of Liege: Photo: Andreas Praefcke, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Blaise: Louvre Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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67 comments on “Juliana of Liege vs. Blaise”

  1. Orphan, tending to lepers, prioress, woman liturgist, victim of unscrupulous actions, evicted & homeless... Juliana gets my vote. Besides all that she has 'the home advantage' with me as I grew up not far from Liège. Bonne chance Juliana | Julienne de Cornillon.

  2. I appreciate learning more about these two care-giving saints. Had to vote for the martyr though both suffered for their faith.

  3. I'd really like to split the ticket today. Juliana deeply revered the Eucharist. She was a twin and so am I. AND, she was the earliest female liturgist of medieval Europe. I'm an Episcopalian because of her liturgy. There's more, but this is enough.

    1. I'm pretty sure that Hildegard of Bingen, who wrote Ordo Virtutum and who lived in the 11th century, beats out Juliana for the "earliest female liturgist in mediaeval Europe" title.

  4. I would have voted for Juliana, but I fondly remember having my throat blessed every year in my childhood, with my parents at my side, and I still have it done as an adult - The blessing has always seemed a sweet way to show God's love and our trust in His love, and so I vote for Blaise in honor of a tradition started in his name . . . It seems like a worthy symbol in a time when many of us have trouble trusting . . .

  5. As a former Roman Catholic, and whose birthday is Feb. 2nd, I looked forward each year to having my throat blessed with crossed candles. St, Blaise has a special place in my heart.

  6. I was intrigued by Blaise and did a little digging. It seems there are two stories behind the candles. Both credit the bringing of the candles to comfort Blaise in prison to a woman whom he had helped. One story is the story recounted by Mr. Sibley, that Blaise saved and healed a woman’s son who was choking on a fishbone. The other—which I find immensely endearing--is that a poor woman appealed to Blaise when her pig had been seized by a wolf. Blaise talked things over with the wolf, and the wolf returned the pig alive and uninjured.

  7. Another Saint close to my church's heart gets my vote today. When our current priest, Father Brown, came to our church, he instituted the celebration of St. Blaise's feast day. Every year he tells the story of St. Blaise, then calls the parishioners up and places two crossed candles under our chins to bless our throats. This year he merely held them in front of us to avoid spreading disease (something I think Blaise would approve of). But I think next year we'll be back to the traditional way.

    Father Brown has been a wonderful priest at our church, so in his honor I will vote for St. Blaise.

  8. To Juliana, in honor of our local Liturgist who is a servant to the entire parish and often alone in her extensive duties. All of Christian Europe celebrates Corpus Christi in significant ways - none of which would have come about without her long-in-coming coordination, instruction and planning.

  9. I remember having my throat blesses w candles in grade school. As someone who got sick a lot, I appreciated the intercession. Blaise all the way.

  10. Early vet and EMT (clearly he had mastered the Heimlich maneuver)--AND helper of singers: how could I not vote for Blaise?

  11. Not excited by either of them. Although the Eucharist is at the centre of my faith, I am not excited by the rituals of Corpus Christi: procession led by virgins in white scattering rose petals; of necessity the virgins chosen for the honour have been getting younger and younger. Anyway, I voted for Blaise with little enthusiasm,

  12. Juliana is the lady of the day for my vote, although I will remember Blaise the next time I have a sore throat.

  13. No contest. My vote is for Juliana.

    Corpus Christi is one of my absolute favorite feasts, and I always kept it with joy when we lived in Britain. I wish it was much more common in the American Episcopal church.

    1. Before the pandemic, my Anglo-Catholic parish kept it with all solemnity, including an outdoor procession that bewildered the neighbors. I hope we will be able to restart it this year.

  14. I voted for Juliana today since we are moving toward a full Eucharist with the common cup now being made an option

  15. When I was at a Roman Catholic grade school, we always ALWAYS wen ton the feast of Saint Blaise to have our throats blessed and the crossed candles were a part of it. I think the practice has fallen out of use nowadays. Anyway, I am not as thrilled about the stories of mystics, so what with my childhood memories of having my throat blessed, I had to vote for Blaise!

  16. I have been suffering with throat problems for a year and I sing (or try to) in the church choir. Maybe my vote for Blaise will help.

  17. As a spinner, I named my spinning wheel Blaise in St. Blaise’s honor, so how could I not vote for him?

  18. As a singer I was leaning towards St. Blaise - I’ve seen photos of the twisted candles in liturgical catalogues - but felt I had to vote for the first female liturgies.

  19. It’s late enough probably no one except in Hawaii is going to be influenced, but I will comment anyway. A very firm, science-trained Protestant, I cannot support the feast of Corpus Christi as meaning anything , though I do deeply appreciate the Eucharist. Healing furry critters, I do support, so it’s Blaise for me today.

  20. Oh no - another hard one and I am too late to vote! As dedicated and remarkable as Saint Juliana was, Blaise suffered a most horrible death and a most difficult life to try to help others.