Rome, Italy, Feb 14, 2021 / 02:00 am
When most people think of romantic love, a third-century skull crowned with flowers probably does not spring to mind -- nor the story behind it.
But a visit to an unassuming Byzantine basilica in Rome might change that.
“One of the most important relics that you will find in this basilica is that of St. Valentine,” the church’s rector, Fr. Chihade Abboud, told EWTN News.
Known as the patron saint of couples for his defense of Christian marriage, St. Valentine was martyred by decapitation on Feb. 14. He is also the inspiration behind the modern-day celebration of Valentine’s Day.
And his skull can be venerated in the minor basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin near the Circus Maximus in Rome.
Construction started on Santa Maria in Cosmedin in the 8th century, in the center of the Greek community in Rome. The basilica was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman temple.
Today, in its front portico, tourists line up to stick their hand inside the gaping mouth of the marble mask made famous by a scene between Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the 1953 film “Roman Holiday.”