Sunday 17 December 2017

The origins of St Valentine are shrouded in historical fog

The shrine of St Valentine at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Aungier Street, Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron
The shrine of St Valentine at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Aungier Street, Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

Joe Kennedy

As Rev John Henry Newman was returning to England from Rome in 1847 carrying relics of St Valentine, he was stopped by customs and excise who rated his saintly package as a mummy.

Newman, later Cardinal and founder of the Catholic University in Dublin (UCD), was not pleased. He had to pay up for this gift from Pope Pius IX, which had been given to him for his new Oratorian house of study in Birmingham. He complained afterwards that Valentine was "not fictitious" and that his name had been found with the remains in the Roman Catacombs. We don't know if he got a refund.

Birmingham is one of three separate shrines of veneration of St Valentine. There is one in Glasgow, and the Irish one is at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Aungier Street in Dublin. As you enter this large church you will notice St Val's chapel clearly signposted, situated off the right-hand aisle. There is a statue of the saint in red vestments, holding a crocus, the symbol of spring, by the sculptor Irene Broe.

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