February 14, 2022

Searching for St. Valentine in Dublin

This post was originally written in Romanian back in 2012

If you think about it, you wouldn't call Dublin a romantic city, but it is. Somehow the old Gothic buildings, rainy weather and dark sky don't spark romance, but the multitude of castles, of old Victorian houses, the green of St. Stephen, the joy of seeing a blue sky and occasionally a rainbow they are romantic in some way.

And Ireland as a whole is full of true love stories. Here are a few: 

Kylemore Abbey is located in the Druchruach Mountains of Galway - Connemara. The story goes that a man named Mitchell Henry began building the castle and the surrounding area after spending his honeymoon with his wife Margaret in Connemara. For his wife, he built a fairytale castle and wanted it to be a living proof of his love for her. Unfortunately, Margaret died in 1874 and never saw the end of her castle. Today the castle can be visited. 

Another Irish love story happened between Cu Chulainn and Emer. When he saw the beautiful Emer with Chulainn, he wanted to marry her. However, her father hated Cu Chulainn and sent him to train in the art of war with the woman-warrior Scathach, convinced that the heavy regime would overthrow Cu Chulainn. But the love between the two made the hero resist the hard training and, much stronger, he returned to his girlfriend, conquered the fortress where her father hid her, kidnapped Emer and soon they got married. Love overcomes everything. 

The most beautiful Irish love poem was written by the poet Patrick Kavanagh, it is called Raglan Road and was written after the poet fell in love with a stranger walking on Grafton Street.

Perhaps the strongest argument in favour of the theory that Dublin is a romantic city is that St. Valentine himself is resting in Dublin. And I only found out on the morning of February 14th, the day of Valentine's Day. 

I guess you all know by now that Valentine was a saint and not an invention of a big beverage company like Santa, he lived in Roman times, during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, when men were encouraged not to fall in love in order to fight better. In those days, St. Valentine married several couples in love and preached for love. He was imprisoned and during his detention he healed the judge's blind daughter. Before she was killed, he sent her a love letter, which was not signed. Hence the custom of Valentine's love letters called valentines. 

So on St. Valentine's day, in 2012, I lived in Dublin and read about the saint being buried in a church in the Irish capital and decided to go and see for myself. On the way it was like I was for the first time in Dublin, I did not remember the bus routes to the centre and even though the church is somewhat central I had no idea how to reach it. In my panic, I've asked a stranger on the street about St. Valentine and the young lady searched online the information and found out herself that the Saint was indeed buried in Dublin and then searched for the correct bus number to reach the Whitefriar Church. I've asked the bus driver to let me know when was the time to descend and here I was. 

In a Carmelite church, I've entered and felt unease as I don't know how to act in a polite way. The service was about to begin and I was urged to a seat. I sat down and listened to the priest, the people around me sang and recited after the him, and at the end the he told the story of Valentine's Day and urged us to stop by the Saint's coffin.

I stood in line, among those carrying flowers, and lit a candle. I took the picture above and tried to leave, but it was not that easy as someone told me I have to write something to the Saint. I stood there with nothing on my mind, but managed to write a few lines. On my way out I was stopped by a radio journalist who was doing a St. Valentine vox-pop. I've answered the best I could and went to the street, where I saw love everywhere. 

A goldsmith service

A restaurant

And in my favourite store in Dublin, Avoca.

I'm not a romantic person, I don't like receiving flowers or small hearts, I don't like romantic candlelight dinners, but I like simple things, a handwritten card, the croissants my husband remembers to buy every morning, the little gestures as washing my daughter's bottle so I find it clean when I wake up at night. Maybe is the age, maybe I've always been like this, but when today he picked up a heart-shaped cake just because he felt like it and we all (Luna and Ilinca included) dug in and ate together, it may not be romanticism but for sure is love.

On February 14, 2012, I discovered Saint Valentine in Dublin, but celebrated his legacy every day since.