Did you know that St. Valentine is in..Athens?

Article published on Feb. 14, 2011
community published
Article published on Feb. 14, 2011
If, 20 years ago, one would ask a resident of Athens what is "Saint Valentine", then most of them would think that you speak of a Carribean island.. like St. Mauritius! And the story would stop there. But during the last decades thanks to the decisive assistance of all kinds of florists, confectioners, chocolate makers and jewelers, his "Holiness" is no longer a mystery to the Athenians!
 With the "arrival" of February, a "battle" for the Valentine's Day takes place: on the one hand, there are the ''faithful'' supporters who see in him a saint of love (in all its forms) and on the other hand, there are the ''eternal enemies", who see St. Valentine as a saint "imported from Western Europe," a "cannibal", urging his fans to a "consumer orgy" , in short a saint "invented" by the modern "mafia" of florists and confectioners, with their diabolical interest to sell their goodies!According to them, we celebrate love every day and there is no reason to connect it to a particular saint. Moreover, as genuine Greeks we should avoid all the Western Christian tradition: so if we need to find a "saint of love", this should be the St. Hyacinth, a saint of the Orthodox church calendar, "our own'' child! But how wrong are the latter! How would they react if I would say to them that Saint Valentine is NOT an outlandish saint as they want to believe and that his remnants "rest" somewhere in Athens, would they believe me or would they send me to the hospital?  It was in 1995 when I firstly read in a magazine in Athens the "incredible" story of the Athenian St. Valentine! . On a first sight, I thought what that some journalists have gone mad, but after visit to the Italian church I was finally convinced !

by Constantine Sfykas  Well, yes: St. Valentine lives, reigns and lives in Athens and his remains can be found in a reliquary in the Catholic Church of St. Francis and St. Clara's Italian community in Athens!

When I went inside the church they gave me a booklet entitled "The Saint Valentine of Athens," written by the Cretan journalist Dimitris Papadakis-Perathorakis where there are presented in full detail all the important moments of the "legendary'' saint and especially the mysterious manner of his arrival in Athens. I have to tell that all the historical figures used in this articles are from this book. So, according to the author of the book: 1) St. Valentine was a young Christian during Roman times. His icon is preserved in the church of Santa Maria Antiqua, the parish of the Greeks in Rome.2) He is characterized by Christian love and a unitary spirit.3) He was beheaded at the persecution era, during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II (the so called: the Goth) on 14 February 268 AD and was buried in the catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome. 4) In 1815, Pope Pius the 7th, offered his relics as a gift to a priest of noble origin, Giovanni-Battista LONGARINI di SAN COSTANZO, which originated from the Duchy of Urbino. 5) After many adventures, in 1907, his remains were found in ....... Mytilene (the capital of Lesvos island, which was at that time under the Ottoman Empire) in the Catholic church of the Virgin (Ermou Street, beside the store Glou, phone: 22510-46 494), having first belonged to a descendant of the noble (Lucia Theophanopoulos-BONGIGLI). 6) This lady donated the relics to the Catholic Church of Mytilene, under the Cappuccini order. 7) Having spent almost a century in the silence and oblivion, the Cappuccini fatherm when they left Mytilene brought the relics of the saint in the Italian Church of Athens, where they serve from 1990.  Nowadays, every February 14 at 6 pm, a liturgy takes place in the memory of the saint. After the liturgy the priest blesses the red roses which are located under the altar and then the "blessed roses'', are given without exception, to the whole congregation (the 80% of which are Orthodox), as a token of love. Many will wonder if Saint Valentine of Athens is the "original" Saint Valentine. The author can not confirm that, but for him the "authenticity of the Saint" doesn't make any difference ! The only thing that matters to him is the message of faith and love that the Saint represents! And he is reminding us what the calendar of the Roman Catholic church honors in total: 18 ''Saint Valentines'', 6 ''Saint Nicholas'' and 7 ''Saint Georges''!I do not know if I managed to convince you or not, but the story is indeed a "charming" one. If you want to discover more about the mysteries of this Athenian saint, pay a visit to the church on the day of celebration, as a first step! Info: Catholic Church of St. Francis and St. Clara's Italian community of Athens Gkyilfordou 7 (opposite of Victoria Square) 104 34 ATHENS Tel: 210-821 89 28 Train Station: Victoria  Bibliography "Saint Valentine of Athens" by Dimitris Papadakis PERATHORAKI : Good Press Office