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Did you know...? You can visit St. Valentine's skull in Rome

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Did you know...? You can visit St. Valentine's skull in Rome
You can visit St Valentine's skill in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

If you want a more offbeat activity for Valentine's Day than a candlelit dinner and a stroll around the Colosseum, try visiting the saint's skull instead.


If you're in Rome this Valentine's Day, you'll have the option of paying your respects to the patron saint of lovers in person, at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin near the Circo Massimo racetrack.

In a gilded glass reliquary inside the church, encircled by a crown of dried flowers, is what's said to be the saint's skull.

The crowds that regularly form outside the church, however, aren't there for St. Valentine; most visitors come for the Bocca della Verità, or 'Mouth of Truth', mounted in the portico outside its entrance.

Featured in the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday, the Mouth of Truth is what's thought to be an ancient Roman manhole cover in the shape of an old man's face, with holes for the eyes and mouth.

According to a medieval legend, anyone who tells a lie while putting their hand in the mouth will have it bitten off - making it one of Rome's most popular sites for tourist photos.

That means that if you do decide to battle your way through the crowds to visit St. Valentine, you'll likely have him to yourself.

READ ALSO: Did Valentine's Day really originate in Italy?

Rome isn't the only city that lays claim to the saint's body parts, however.

There are around 12 other churches that claim to house the relics of St. Valentine, including a parish church in Chelmno, Poland, that says it has fragments of his skull.

Besides this, there's his shoulder blade in Prague, and unspecified bodily remains in Dublin, Roquemaure, Glasgow and even Missouri.


The Vatican, for its part, hasn't weighed in on the matter - so who's to say whether Rome or Poland has the stronger claim (though it's arguably more satisfying to visit an intact skull than a box containing pieces of one).

Aside from the question of where his remains are scattered, who the 'real' St. Valentine even was is widely debated - there are at least two third centuries Italian martyrs by that name and one from North Africa, and as many as ten are listed in the Roman Catholic register.

Whoever - and wherever - St. Valentine is, visiting his skull (or one of them) is definitely a memorable way to spend the day - and it's one Valentine's Day activity you don't need to be partnered up for.


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