If you’re a romantic or chocoholic, you might crush on Valentine’s Day, but if your tastes skew more toward the macabre—say, actual organs instead of heart-shaped cards—you might feel more flushed when you think about relics. In that case, none will titillate you quite like bones or blood around the world said to have come from the body of Saint Valentine himself.
Several churches, from Chełmno, Poland, to Florissant, Missouri, claim to possess some of the saint’s remains. But there are a couple more wrinkles to the story. For one, the true identity of Saint Valentine is fuzzier than a stuffed teddy bear. The name “Valentine,” or something like it, was popular in the Roman Empire, probably owing to its association with Latin words that emphasize strength and power, and there are thought to be a few saints with that name. The 15th-century Nuremberg Chronicle recounts the saga of one Valentine—a Roman priest—martyred in the third century for helping out Christians, who weren’t beloved by the emperor, Claudius II, or Claudius Gothicus. Other accounts describe Saint Valentine as the Bishop of Terni, Italy. The history of Saint Valentine’s association with amorousness is a little murky, too. Some scholars think it might have begun as a revamp of the ancient festival of Lupercalia. Others suspect that the romantic trope is largely an invention of Geoffrey Chaucer and his pals, who cast the saint in poems about lovers, both human and avian.
The relics could be from one of the Saints Valentine, or from someone else entirely. And there’s a problem common to the world of holy relics: duplicates. Several churches claim to have his skull—but as far as we know, Saint Valentine, whoever he was, only had one head. (Unless, of course, there were two of him.)
We can’t promise that any of these relics really came from the man whose name launched a thousand greeting cards, but here are eight places you can (allegedly) meet Saint Valentine, just in time for his feast day on February 14.
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