Valentine was a priest who was martyred on the 14th of February and as with other saints, that date is his feast day.
He lived in Rome, Italy in the 3rd century and was persecuted and finally martyred because he defended and continued to marry Christian couples. He was beaten to death and beheaded and his skull is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.
Part of his remains (relics) now lie in Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin. Throughout the year they lie below the statue of St. Valentine at his altar there but for the days around and on St. Valentine’s Day they are exposed which means his casket is on display at the front of the church on the altar.
Couples who are soon to marry come to the church on St. Valentine’s day to have their wedding rings blessed and when we were there I noticed a book on the altar of St. Valentine where people write their wishes.
I started to read the words written there but stopped when I read something written by a mother praying for a good and loving wife for her son. It felt intrusive and far too personal for me to be reading so I have no idea what other wished are written there but I assume they wish for love for themselves and/or their loved ones.
But how did the partial remains of St. Valentine end up in Ireland?
They are there because of an Irish Carmelite and philanthropist, John Spratt (1797-1871), who travelled to and spoke in Rome in 1835. He was widely lauded there and received many gifts, the most important being a casket given to him by Pope Gregory XVI containing some of the remains of St. Valentine including a vial of his blood.
St. Valentine’s remains arrived in Dublin on the 10th of November 1836 and were taken in procession through the streets of Dublin to the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street. Following the death of John Spratt in 1871 interest in the relics faded and they went into storage until they were found during renovations of the church in the 1950s/60s
An altar to St. Valentine was built and a life size statue of him created by Irish artist, Irene Broe (1923-1992).
His remains were placed in their sealed casket below his altar with an iron gate to protect them. They are inside a black and gold wooden box and the casket in which they sit has never had its seal broken and remains intact to this day.
So there you go, you now know why St. Valentine’s (partial) remains can be found in Dublin, Ireland. You might also like to know that not only is St. Valentine the patron saint of lovers, he is also the patron saint of beekeepers, epilepsy and the plague!
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