Basilica of St. Valentine - Atlas Obscura

Basilica of St. Valentine

Terni, Italy

Terni calls itself the "City of Lovers" and celebrates its links to Saint Valentine on February 14th—but is it the right Saint Valentine? 

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The Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni, Italy, is decorated appropriately around February 14th—in fact, the entire city is decorated for the month of February. Terni styles itself as the “City of Lovers,” because of its patron saint, Valentine. But Terni’s Saint Valentine here is the former Bishop of Terni, while the Saint Valentine traditionally associated with lovers is Saint Valentine of Rome. In early listings of martyrs by the Catholic Church, these were listed as two separate individuals.

St. Valentine’s origin and true identity are not known for certain. There are many conflicting stories, and many churches that claim to hold body parts of the patron saint of lovers. Whether these Valentines are the same person who somehow became separated in the literature or two people who later became conjoined in the popular consciousness is a mystery.

However we should never let the truth (or particularly the uncertainty around it) overcome a good story. If Terni wants to celebrate its patron saint in a particular way, who are we to complain? If you are a couple wanting the romantic experience of a visit to St Valentine’s church then the one in Terni is certainly worth a visit. (And, with apologies for the lack of romance, the parking in Terni will be much easier than parking near a church in Rome.)

The inside of the church is well worth a visit and in particular, there is an interesting old organ. In the church is also an altar which supposedly contains the body of St Valentine, said to have been returned to the church in 1618 after being removed by the Catholic Church to enable the church to be restored.

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December 1, 2023

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