February 14th, 2008

Let me see..

Relic of Love

Relics. You find them in the best of churches in Europe.

This one is in Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, also home to the Bocca della Verità. Cosmedin comes from the Greek word kosmidion, beautiful. The medieval church still maintains a stunning tiled floor, marble choir, and paintings from the 8th to 12th centuries in the upper nave, among other artistic and historic delights.

There's a brocade-draped table on one side of the nave. A glass-fronted gilt display case on it contains several old bones. Among them is this skull, crowned by a wreath of bright artificial flowers and labeled across its forehead "S. Valentini M."

Could it be? A holy relic of the patron saint of romantic love?

Maybe. According to medieval legends, Valentine was executed in Rome in 270 for refusing to renounce Christianity and for marrying couples against Imperial decree. But there are actually three martyred Saint Valentines.

According to one medieval record, the relics of (a) St. Valentine were in Santa Prassede Church in Rome in 1425. In 1836, excavations of the catacombs of Via Tiburtina in Rome disinterred the relics identified as St. Valentine, which were given by the Pope to a church in Dublin, Ireland. But St. Valentine's relics can also be found in churches in Roquemaure, France; Vienna, Austria; Terni, Italy; Passua, Germany; Glasgow, Scotland; Birmingham, England; and Malta. They are also said to be in Madrid, Spain, since the 19th century, though no one seems to know where.

Whatever. Here's my Valentine for you, dear friends. I took this photo on my summer vacation. May your love be blessed.

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