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Double Take: St Valentine's heart in a box in a Dublin church

St Valentine’s heart will go on.

AMBLING DOWN AUNGIER Street isn’t typically considered a romantic activity. Did you know, however, that the impressively grand Whitefriar Church contains the heart of the city? St Valentine’s, to be precise.

The patron saint of love (and beekeeping) became a legendary martyred figure following his beheading in AD 270.

In Ancient Rome, there was a custom of randomly pairing couples for matrimony. This was banned by Emperor Claudius, who wanted men to join his growing army instead.

St Valentine, however, continued to wed couples – which led to his execution.

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Some fifteen hundred years later, in 1835, highly-esteemed Irish Carmelite priest, Fr John Spratt was invited to Rome to preach at the Gesu.

His sermons were lauded by the city’s elite and he was gifted with some unconventional tokens by Pope Gregory XVI – including the heart of St. Valentine.

NOSTRA SIGNORA DI DUBLINO #igersdublin #dublin #church #nonsolobirra

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He returned to Whitefriar Church, heart in tow. But it was lost in the grounds of the church until renovations took place during the 1950s.

According to The Wild Geese, an online collective championing Irish heritage, it was customary for religious institutions to have similar offerings. By presenting the body parts of a saint on the altar, the congregation were reminded that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Today, the heart resides in a golden box in a shrine dedicated to St Valentine. Overlooking it, a statue of the Saint holding a crocus and clothed in red vestments, the colour depicts blood shed for his Christian faith. It’s often adorned with fresh flowers and lit candles, fulfilling the romantic connotations associated with Valentine’s Day.

It attracts a range of visitors – from young couples praying to St Valentine for eternal love to elders asking for a protective eye on family members.

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