Lovers make pilgrimage to St Valentine's Dublin shrine
A DUBLIN church is the centre of the romantic universe today as lovers, pilgrims and the just plain hopeful converge on the shrine of St Valentine.
In recent days, visitor numbers to the church in Aungier Street have grown in preparation for today's feast day of the saint.
The relics of St Valentine are kept in the church where candles burn in front of his statue.
"We came to look for a blessing for our wedding next year," said Helen Carey (26) who arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with new fiance Stephen McCarthy (23).
They told the Herald they lit a number of candles at the shrine as they look forward to their wedding in October next year.
People from around the world come to the church yet a surprising number of Dubliners are still not aware St Valentine's remains are reputed to rest in a casket in the church. Carmelite Prior Fr David Weakliam (75) has helped couples renew their marriage vows at the shrine and is aware of many marriage proposals involving younger couples at the hallowed site.
"I remember one such moment when the guy manoeuvred girl to the place and then went down on his knee to propose. She was bowled over and delighted," said Fr Weakliam.
"It's always nice to see young people in such situations. I'm delighted for them. Of course, a lot of proposals take place privately."
The legend of St Valentine declares he was executed in 270AD for performing Christian marriage ceremonies at a time when being Christian was a deadly risk. In 1835, Pope Gregory gave permission for his grave to be opened in Rome and the remains sent to Dublin for veneration.
One dedicated visitor this week was Alessandre Rocha (18), a native of Brazil, who has made more than a dozen visits to the shrine.
"I have come every week since I discovered St Valentine is here," she said. "I believe St Valentine really deserves a special day. I believe in the need for love," said Alessandre.
Emma Stringer (24) and Simon Gore (32), both from the Liverpool area, said they are "just friends" but they wanted to see the shrine.
"People can say that romance is dead - but there should always be a place for love and romance on the planet," said Emma.