Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saint Valentine's shoulder blade is a famous relic in Prague!

A couple kneeling in front of Saint Valentine's shoulder blade, which is in the reliquary adorned with gold,
at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Prague.  

It began, as many of my adventures do, with something I saw on Twitter.

Prague City Tourism ‏@PragueEU -- Idea: See St. Valentine's shoulder blade in the Church of Sts. Peter & Paul @ Vysehrad. đź’–  #Prague #weirdbutcool #onlyinprague #valentinesday

Prague City Tourism's intriguing tweet provoked so many questions: What is St. Valentine's shoulder blade doing in Prague?; Is his entire shoulder blade on display?; and What happened to the rest of St. Valentine's body?

During the tram ride to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at Vyšehrad, I used my phone to do a bit of research. It turns out that even though Saint Valentine is officially recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, his exact identity remains unclear. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February.” One was a priest in Rome, the second was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

An account from the 1400s claims that Saint Valentine was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II, also known as Claudius the Cruel, for illegally marrying young lovers. The emperor had banned all marriages and engagements because he thought that Roman men weren't joining the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.

The relic of Saint Valentine's shoulder blade is displayed every Valentine's Day
at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Prague.

Believing the emperor's decree to be unjust, Valentine continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Claudius learned that his wishes had been defied, Valentine was clubbed to death and beheaded on February 14, in or around 269 A.D.

St. Valentine's skeletal remains were found in Rome when a catacomb was excavated in the early 1800s. Following the custom of the time, his bones and other relics were distributed to religious orders around Europe. His skull is on display in Roma at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Other bits and pieces of Saint Valentine are located in Scotland, Ireland, France, England and the Czech Republic.

It's believed that Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who was also the King of Bohemia, brought Saint Valentine's shoulder blade to Prague in the 1300s. At the time, Charles IV lived in Vyšehrad, the castle that houses the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

At some point after the 18th century, the relic was moved from its shrine in the basilica. It resurfaced in 2002 when members of the church came across an object labeled "Saint Valentine's shoulder blade" while doing a general inventory of items in the basement of the chapter house.

While some people may be skeptical about the relic's authenticity, the stream of couples making their annual Valentine's Day pilgrimage to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Prague were resolute in their faith. Kneeling on the cold marble floor, they said a prayer in front of the precious reliquary adorned with gold and paused to read Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13.

... And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. ...

Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. Pursue love.

Happy Valentine's Day from Prague!

Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at Vyšehrad, Prague
Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, and Saint Valentine's relic at the
Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at Vyšehrad, Prague 

3 comments:

  1. wow...who knew ? You have always found a way to enlighten us, MK. I may have to get back to Prague. I am beginning to realize that there is so much there which I missed on my visit.

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  2. Thanks for sharing--and I love that part of St. Paul's letter to Corinthians: it's all about compassion.

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