Hidden in a beautiful church with a drab, grey exterior are the remains of Valentinus, patron saint of love. As you pass through the main entrance of the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, on the right hand side lies The Shrine to St Valentine. The statue above the casket, of St. Valentine dressed in red, was carved in the 1960s by Dublin sculptor Irene Broe (1923 - 1992), who also carved the statue of St. Clare in the Church of St. Adam and Eve, Dublin.
History of the Relics
- In the mid 19th century, Irish Carmelite Father John Spratt was gaining much admiration in the Church for his work among the poor and less fortunate people of Dublin.
- Between Decmember 1835 and April 1836, Fr. Pratt visited Rome, for both health and business reasons.
- During his stay he was invited to preach in the principal church of the Jesuits, as a guest of Cardinal Weld.
- Weld was Pope Gregory XVI’s adviser on affairs in Ireland and England.
- The Pope was so taken with Fr. Pratt's oration that he sent him a token of his esteem -- the remains of Saint Valentine.
- On the morning of November 10, 1836, the remains arrived in Dublin in a container for relics, known as a reliquary. They were received at Whitefriar street by Archbishop Murray of Dublin, who said a special High Mass, at which Fr. Spratt preached.
- The reliquary came with a letter from the Pope, outlining its contents. The outer casket, which has only been opened a few times, houses a container.
- Inside the container is a small wooden box, covered in painted paper, tied with a red silk ribbon and sealed with wax seals. This box has never been opened.
The Pope's Certification
According to the papal letter that came with the reliquium, the inner box contains: ... "the blessed body of St Valentine, martyr, which we ourselves by the command of the most Holy Father Pope Gregory XVI on the 27th day of December 1835, have taken out of the cemetery of St Hippolytus in the Tiburtine Way, together with a small vessel tinged with his blood". "The blessed body" is believed to refer to the remains -- presumably some bones -- of the body.
On Valentine's Day each year, the reliquium is placed on the main altar for a special mass. However, this is also the busiest day of the year to visit the church. Please be respectful. If you notice that mass is ongoing, and you don't want to partake, wait until it is finished before visiting the relic. Mass usually lasts an hour or so.