St Valentine, the patron saint of love was executed hideously in Rome in the 3rd century.
His crime — secretly marrying couples in a time when Roman Emperor Claudius ruled over a polygamous empire and didn’t fancy the idea of one love. So poor St Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution which began with beating, was followed by stoning, and finished off with decapitation. All because of his stand for Christian marriage.
Much later, in 1835, the then progressive romantic’s bones and a vial of his blood were brought to Whitefriar Church on Aungier Street by Carmelite priest Fr John Spratt after receiving them as a gift from Pope Gregory XVI.
Mr Valentine’s flower adorned skull remains in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.
In homage to having his great ‘loveness,’ in Ireland, mass is held twice on St Valentine’s Day. Single people pilgrim to pray for love while couples flock to the shrine to ask for guidance and protection.
Smug twosomes with a shared interest in matching onesies and bile inducing proclamations of love on social media drop in to tick their ‘love’ bucket list.
But besides the annual trickle, there’s not much ado about it. One would ponder why no one is cashing in. Although St Valentine bones are spread across other European parishes, and he’s not wholly ours, we have a great knack for flogging the crap out of something to entice visitors.
In a few weeks time, the world will celebrate our patron saint Patrick.
Hundreds of landmarks including Christo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, Niagara Falls and the Burg Al Arab in Dubai are going green.
Can you think of any other country having such a monopoly on national days? I don’t see us coming together for the Dutch queen’s birthday on April 30th as the Dutch equivalent of Danny Boy is played in space.
Look what we’ve done with the Wild Atlantic Way and The Ancient East.
We’re genius marketeers.
But why isn’t someone doing a live ‘love report’ from the love capital of the world on February 14th?
There are so many options. I can see it now -‘The love tour’ featuring the Blarney Stone, Blackfriars Church, a carvery, a glass of flat cava, Coppers. In that order.
For one week in February we could become ‘Love Island’ or ‘Love Ireland.’ You’re welcome. I’m sharing the patent.
Temple Bar could become a love nest with a karaoke stage and ‘I got you babe’ blaring.
Smug couples, who bought a house during the downturn and finish all their posts with #bflove #lovebf #otherhalf #nomnom #twosome etc could gratify themselves in themed photo booths. You get a photo of you, your beau and a leprechaun in the middle. C’mon what could be better? #leprechaunlove. We have it all.
Those people in Verona with their fictitious Romeo and Juliet balcony have nothing on us. Shakespeare never visited Italy. Romeo and Juliet aren’t real and yet, the Veronese realised they could they could capitalise on the story.
We have the real deal here in this uncapitalised capital of love. There are so many things we can do- from tack to tasteful. Why aren’t we doing them? Why aren’t we more like Paris?
Is it too cisgender? Pagan? Un-PC? Too #metoo? Too Hallmark? One would think this ‘new Ireland’ we speak of so fondly would embrace love and a festival of love, but historically and traditionally we don’t associate ourselves with romance.
Like style, romance doesn’t seem to come naturally to us.
Maybe there aren’t enough florally adorned balconies.
Maybe it’s residual Catholic repression. It may take some generations to finally release ourselves from the shackles of ‘no sex before marriage, sex only for procreation’ and whatever else was drilled into our collective psyche.
Besides Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan, Amy Huberman and Brian O’Driscoll, we don’t have any great Bogarde, Bacall, Tristan and Isolda style romantic couples.
According to lore, our mythological hero Cu Chulainn had a love affair with a warrior woman called Aoife on Scathach’s Island. After she told him she was with male child, he went home and married Emer as per pre arranged marriage. The whole thing didn’t go down too well with Aoife and she vowed revenge with her son Connla.
This hardly inspires great romance down the line.
From my own experience, Irish men are less romantic than their European counterparts. I understand that they don’t want to feed the consumerist machine that surrounds St Valentines day, but at the same time, there is a certain laziness about it here.
European men are more forward. They’ll just hand you drinks, look you up online, tell you they fancy you. Being half European myself, I prefer this kind of thing. Plus, they don’t have to have a few Dutch courage pints first.
I’m not into consumerism, but I do think that we could do more with this gift of Valentines.
We’ll just keep the fact that his shrine is under the that of St Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases to ourselves. When you pray to St Valentine, this guy is staring down at you. Maybe it could be just for those hopelessly in love.
Let’s not ruin the whole Hallmark thing with cynicism at this stage.