Irish Heritage E-mail Group

Saint Valentine And The Irish Connection

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The factual history of St Valentine begins in the third century AD when Valentine (Valentinius) was a Christian priest in the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius The Second. This was a time of persecution of the early Christians. It was also a time when Claudius had decreed that no marriages should take place, on the ground that young unmarried males would make better soldiers than those who were married! Valentine however, secretly performed marriage services for the young lovers in defiance of the tyrannical ruling, and was arrested. It is recorded that whilst in prison he miraculously restored the sight of the daughter of his Judge, Asterias. Despite mingled promises and threats on the part of the Prefect of Rome, Valentine refused to abjure his faith and was condemned to be first beaten with clubs, and then to be beheaded. On his path to Martyrdom he was accompanied by his former Judge Asterias, who together with all of his family, had converted to Christianity. Valentine wrote a farewell message to the daughter of Asterias which he signed 'Your Valentine'.

The date of the martyrdom of St. Valentine was 14 February in the year 290 AD. This was a fateful date, since it was on that date that the Roman Feast Of Lupercalia was celebrated by the young men and women of the ancient city. It was popularly accepted that on that date the Birds chose their mates, and so, in harmony with the rhythms of nature, young eligible girls made decorated, ribboned tokens on which they wrote their names, and placed them in an urn. The young men picked a token from the urn, and the following year paid court to the chosen girl. A fateful dovetailing of significant events therefore took place which ensured the immortalization of the Saint - his martyrdom for the combined and inseparable ideals of Divine and Romantic love on that fateful feast day of the Old World. Legend has it that a pink Almond tree, a symbol of Eternal love blossomed from the grave of the Saint Even the ancient exchange of tokens in the form of Valentine cards continues today as each year the Saint's legacy is celebrated.

So you ask. Whats all of this have to do with Ireland? The story of how the remains of St. Valentine came to Ireland started way back in the 17th century. At the time there was a Carmelite priest in Dublin, in the Liberties, called Fr. John Spratt. By all accounts he seems to have been a man of boundless energy as he was very much involved with the poor and destitute of the area. He began the building of the present Church in 1825 which was designed by Sir George Papworth, who was also responsible for building the Pro Cathedral the previous year, 1824.

In 1835, he visited Rome. While there he was asked to preach at the famous Jesuit Church, the Gesu. Apparently his fame as a preacher had gone before him probably brought by some Jesuits who had been in Dublin. The elite of Rome flocked to hear him and he received many tokens of esteem from the doyens of the church. Pope Gregory XVI (16th) made him a gift of the remains of St. Valentine.

On November 10th, 1836 the remains of the Saint arrived in Dublin and were brought to Whitefriar St. Church. The Archbishop of Dublin at the time, Dr. Murray, received the remains and presided at the Solemn High Mass to mark the occasion.

For some time, the presence of the remains of St. Valentine in Whitefriar St. Church, caused the proverbial seven day wonder. Then, with the death of Fr. Spratt, devotion began to disappear and the relics from the Church, to be relegated to some back room to collect dust.

40 years ago, as a result of major renovations, St. Valentine has been restored to his rightful place with a specially designed altar and shrine. Irene Broe has carved a statue depicting the Saint holding a crocus plant, the symbol of spring.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?