The legend of Saint Valentine is historically murky, but nonetheless cute. It is even possible that the Valentine we know may have been cobbled together from two Roman martyrs of the same time and same name. The Irish, of course, understand that a good story is much better than the truth, anyway. The most popular stories of the third-century Roman priest Valentius tell of his commitment to love and marriage in a time of war and strife in Ancient Rome. He was jailed and martyred for conducting secret Christian marriage ceremonies, and we celebrate his feast day with flowers, candy, and cards for our loved ones today.
In 1835, an Irish priest from this church visited Rome and so impressed the Vatican higher-ups that he was awarded a holy relic from Pope Gregory XVI—a small piece of St. Valentine’s body and a vial of his blood. The relic was brought back to Dublin and put on display in the church. Interestingly, they were put into storage after their popular appeal faded, and were only restored to the church sanctuary after they were re-discovered during a twentieth-century renovation.
Today, couples engaged to be married come to Whitefriar Street for a special Valentine’s Day mass, where their rings are blessed under the watchful eye of the Patron Saint of Love himself.
Dublin in Detail: St. Valentine in Dublin? is an excerpt from The Frugal Guide: Dublin, a totally free eBook guide to the great Irish capital by Cory Hanson. Find out more about the book, and download your free copy in your choice of multiple formats, on the Frugal Guide page here on Five Suitcases.