This time last year I included a reference to St Valentine in a post about Mervyn Suart. I mentioned at the time that I was not sure how many people know St Valentine's remains are housed in Dublin and can be found inside the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church. The church is very close to where I work and I have always been attracted to the statue of Mary that stands outside - I think she is beautiful and I love the way her gown drapes so softly.
The picture of Mary is one of mine but I have borrowed all the others showing the interior of the church as I never feel comfortable taking photographs inside a place of worship. I found them at two sites - Go Ireland and Superstock. There are a lot of sites that give the history and details of how and why St Valentine was brought to Dublin which I am not going to repeat here. Instead I thought I would tell you about my recent visit.
I live in Ireland but I am not Catholic. The churches I am familiar with are much more simple and stained glass windows usually provide the only 'wow factor'. Shrines, statues and relics are quite exotic to me and I don't really understand the complexity of Catholicism.
But seeing as it was nearly his special day I thought I would pay St Valentine a visit. I've been to the church before and I tend to wander about inside and look around and nobody pays me much mind.
The shrine is tucked away in an alcove off a side-aisle . Above it is a life-size statue of the saint and as you can see from the photographs it is both realistic and brightly coloured. On St Valentine's Day the saint's remains (usually stored under the shrine) are brought out and a special ceremony is held. I think couples can also have their rings blessed but I have never gone to the church on the actual day. I tend to prefer places when they are quiet and choose times when I can study everything peacefully on my own.
Placed on the shrine is a book in which people write messages to St Valentine, asking for guidance and assistance in marriages and relationships. I stopped to have a look at the page that was open. The messages are so touching it is difficult not to wonder about the lives behind these heartfelt entreaties.
As I finished reading I looked up and must have started back in surprise. At that angle directly underneath the statue it seemed as though St Valentine was really looking at me. He gazed down with his sad, benign smile, and in the soft flickering light of the candles filling the alcove I almost fancied there was mobility in his features and life behind his eyes.
The sensation lasted for just a moment and was broken by the arrival of two other people - but I left the place feeling as though the patron saint of love had, in that fleeting moment, looked favourably upon me.
Don't forget that this is a leap year which means that girls can do the proposing. So ladies put on your red petticoats to signal your intent at the end of the month (according to tradition) and make your conquest!
And to finish - a clip from 'The King and I' - glamour and humour and charm. They don't make them like this anymore!