As lovers celebrate Saint Valentine´s Day, few will be gathering at his last resting place – which lies in Madrid – or at least part of him.
How the the Roman era saint who was executed and martyred on 14 February 269 came to be in Madrid is anything but clear.
That he was executed by the Emperor Claudius Gothicus, who Valentine had been trying to convert to Christianity, we do know.
Claudius was having none of this Christianity and instead condemned him to death, commanding that he “either renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded”.
According to later legend, before his execution outside the gates of Rome, Saint Valentine wrote a note to a Senator´s daughter whom he had been courting and signed it “from your Valentine”, which is said to have “inspired today’s romantic missives”.
In the eighteenth century archeologists are supposed to have chanced upon the skull and the bones of St. Valentine in Rome.
Since there was no place to preserve them Pope Gelasius presented these relics to King Carlos IV of Spain who in turn handed them to the Piarists – a Catholic religious’ order in Madrid which continues to this day with the aim of helping the poor and desolate at San Anton Church.
St. Valentine’s remains were therefore deposited in the church situated on Calle Fuencarral in Madrid’s Chueca district, where they have lain since the late 1700s.
The relics themselves have been displayed publicly since 1984, in a foundation open to the public at all times and where donations are used to help people in need.
Indeed the church, which for many years has been under the wing of Padre Angel has a very open house vision of how a church should be run.
The casket containing the relics of St. Valentine are neatly laid out in an 18th century ornamental casket where colourful ribbons decorate his presence.
On the 14th of February a special mass is celebrated and lovers, new and old sign their names on a narrow strip of fabric whilst others renew their eternal affection and love for each other.
The church is also a refuge and people from all walks of life blend in with the panhandlers and the homeless who shelter there.
A complimentary breakfast is also served every day to those less fortunate.
Indeed the 18th century Baroque style church has become a magnet for the homeless and hungry.
The church offers spiritual as well as temporal guidance to all as well as legal advice for anyone that needs it.
So when you go to trendy happening Chueca – share a thought for those less fortunate and pop in to see the King of Love himself.