On Thursday, we’ll all be celebrating St Valentine’s Day in our own little ways, many of us choosing to honour the patron saint of lovers with red roses, lavish dinners and champagne toasts. But did you know that in Dublin you can pay tribute to love by visiting the Shrine of St Valentine at Whitefriar Street Church?
The Carmelite house of worship is found just steps from St Stephen’s Green along Whitefriar and Aungier streets, and is home to relics of the famous saint. As the story goes, Pope Gregory XVI gave the relics to Fr John Spratt, an Irish Carmelite who visited Rome in 1835. As a renowned speaker, Fr Spratt was asked to deliver a sermon at the Church of The Gesu during his visit and as a thank you for his powerful words, the Pope gifted Fr Spratt the remains of St Valentine.
The following year, the relics arrived in Dublin and were transported to Whitefriar Street Church, where they have remained ever since. According to the website for the Order of Carmelites, the relics were put into storage after the passing of Fr Spratt, but during a renovation of the church in the 1950s and 1960s, they were once again put on display.
Today, you can visit the shrine that houses them, complete with a statue of St Valentine. It has become a popular place for couples to visit each year on 14 February, as the reliquary is moved to the church’s high altar for the day's mass celebrations, some of which also include a special Blessing of Rings ceremony for couples who are to be married.
Photograph by William Murphy