It may not be widely known outside Ireland that the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street in Dublin City claims to hold the remains of St Valentine. The Carmelites first arrived in Ireland in 1271, and today there is a community of 17 in the Monastery attached to Whitefriar Street Church. The story of how the remains of St Valentine came to rest in Whitefriar Street is interesting, and involves a famous nineteenth-century Carmelite attached to the Church, Fr John Spratt. Fr Spratt visited Rome in 1835, and apparently largely on the strength of his powers as a preacher, Pope Gregory XVI decided to make his Church a gift of St Valentine’s body, then believed to be in the Cemetery of St Hippolitus in Rome. The remains of Valentine were duly transferred to Whitefriar Street Church in 1836, and since that date have been venerated there, especially around the time of the Saint’s Feast Day. The Whitefriar Street Carmelites have now published online the following translation of a letter in Latin which accompanied the remains of St Valentine when they arrived in Dublin:
We, Charles, by the divine mercy, Bishop of Sabina of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Odescalchi Arch Priest of the Sacred Liberian Basilica, Vicar General of our most Holy Father the Pope and
Judge in Ordinary of the Roman Curia and of its Districts, etc, etc.
To all and everyone who shall inspect these our present letters, we certify and attest, that for the greater glory of the omnipotent God and veneration of his saints, we have freely given to
the Very Reverend Father Spratt, Master of Sacred Theology of the Order of Calced Carmelites of the convent of that Order at Dublin, in Ireland, the blessed body of St Valentine, martyr, which
we ourselves by the command of the most Holy Father Pope Gregory XVI on the 27th day of December 1835, have taken out of the cemetery of St Hippolytus in the Tiburtine Way, together with a
small vessel tinged with his blood and have deposited them in a wooden case covered with painted paper, well closed, tied with a red silk ribbon and sealed with our seals and we have so
delivered and consigned to him, and we have granted unto him power in the Lord, to the end that he may retain to himself, give to others, transmit beyond the city (Rome) and in any church,
oratory or chapel, to expose and place the said blessed holy body for the public veneration of the faithful without, however, an Office and Mass, conformably to the decree of the Sacred
Congregation of Rites, promulgated on the 11th day of August 1691.
In testimony whereof, these letters, testimonial subscribed with our hand, and sealed with our seal, we have directed to be expedited by the undersigned keeper of sacred relics.
Rome, from our Palace, the 29th day of the month of January 1836.
Philip Ludovici Pro-Custos
For those wishing to visit St Valentine’s Shrine in Dublin, Whitefriar Street Church is located between Aungier Street and Wexford Street, and is just a few minutes’ walk west of St Stephen’s Green. Within the Whitefriar Street Church building there is a shop where one can purchase various souvenirs, such as cards, keyrings and other material bearing Valentine’s image. Unlike most other surviving inner city churches in Dublin, Whitefriar Street always seems to be busy, and as well as the shrine to St Valentine, there are shrines to the Black Madonna and St Albert. The Whitefriar Street Fathers today emphasise St Valentine’s association ‘with young people and their needs as they grow into maturity and adult life’. To express it more romantically,the Whitefriar Street Shrine to St Valentine has been and continues to be a place of pilgrimage for those celebrating love – as well as for those who have lost it or have yet to find it!
Prayer to St Valentine: