By Natalie Harrison
When we think of Ireland, the holiday the holiday that comes to mind is St. Patrick’s Day. But did you know that Valentine’s Day also has an important connection to Ireland? In Dublin City Center, between the Swan Bar and the Embassy of Croatia, the rather unassuming looking Whitefriar Street Church holds the remains of Saint Valentine himself.
On February 14, 269 AD, the Roman Emperor Claudius ordered the beheading of Saint Valentine. His remains rested in Rome until the early 19th century when a loquacious Irish Carmelite priest named John Sprat visited Italy and enthralled the elite of Rome, including Pope Gregory XVI. The pope gifted the Irish priest an invaluable relic: part of Saint Valentine’s corporeal remains and a vial of his blood, together in a small box sealed with wax and tied with a white ribbon. Sprat brought the box back to Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Church in 1836, where they have remained ever since.
The wax-sealed and ribbon-tied box are housed in a larger casket in the church, along with a statue of Saint Valentine. Since they were placed on display to the public in the 1950s, this Whitefriar Street Church shrine to the patron saint of lovers (and beekeepers and epilepsy) has been visited by throngs of engaged and married couples from around the world seeking blessings for their union. It has also been visited by even more unsuccessful singles desperately seeking a bit more success in their romantic pursuits, perhaps hoping the combination of the heart of Saint Valentine and the luck of the Irish will do the trick.
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Irish Club of Alaska!