Saint Valentine in Dublin

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St Valentine Relics, White Friar Street. Photo by Sinéad Fitzgerald.
St Valentine Relics, White Friar Street. Photo by Sinéad Fitzgerald.

The story of St Valentine’s relics has been intriguing visitors to Dublin since they were put on display in White Street Carmelite Church in the 1950s. Not least because there are up to ten places in the world claiming to house the remains of the celebrated Saint, including Glasgow, Rome and Prague. Meeting with Prior Brian McKay, he said: ‘We received a document of confirmation with the relics and we believe we have the real thing.’ Saint Valentine died in the year 269 and the relics came to the Church in 1836. Prior McKay adds that by the time they came to Dublin they were dust. ‘It’s not possible that they are anything else. Likewise a vial of blood that we also received wouldn’t resemble anything like blood.’ In 2012, the heart of St Laurence O Toole was stolen from Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. Prior McKay states ‘Since then we’ve had the relics under a 24 hour alarm in case anyone tries to break in.’

John Spratt, founder of the Church received the relics as a gift from Pope Gregory XVI in recognition of his excellent public speaking abilities. I ask Prior McKay about the fact that there are said to have been four Valentine’s that lived during the same period and he laughs. ‘I thought that might come up. We believe we have the relics of St Valentine who brought so many couples together but there is no way of knowing for sure.’

Nonetheless it is worth your while visiting White Friar Street. The relics are kept in a glass case near the front of the church and are tastefully surrounded by candles. There is a book beside the case where visitors can petition the Saint for guidance or help. People ask for help in all kinds of things, from finding love to new direction in life. It’s another perspective on the widely marketed holiday.

By Sinéad Fitzgerald

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