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Where to find Saint Valentine’s skull in Rome

Where to find Saint Valentine’s skull in Rome

Rome church hosts the skull of San Valentino.

Hordes of tourists in Rome queue up every day to stick their hand in the Mouth of Truth while skipping the adjoining church, the fascinating Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

Located near the Circus Maximus in the site of the Forum Boarium, Rome’s ancient cattle market, the church is one of the city’s finest examples of mediaeval ecclesiastic architecture and is renowned for its Cosmatesque floors.

The basilica, whose origins date to the sixth century and possibly much earlier, is also known for housing a more unexpected relic: the skull of Saint Valentine.

The skull, crowned with a garland of flowers and emblazoned with “San Valentino” across its forehead, can be found in the side altar on the left side of the church.

While the the relic draws a small but steady crowd of visitors, especially on Saint Valentine’s Day, there remains a question mark over the exact owner of the skull.

According to tradition the skull belongs to the third-century Christian martyr Valentino however the line between historical fact and legend is decidedly blurred.

There were are at least two legendary Christian martyrs by the name of Valentino, the patron saint of lovers, engaged couples, people with epilepsy, and beekeepers.

In early listings of martyrs by the Catholic Church there were two distinct marytrs called Valentino, both martyred in or around Rome: the patron of the Umbrian town of Terni (or Interamna as it was known in Roman times), a bishop martyred probably in the fourth century; the other a Roman priest martyred in Rome during the persecution of Christians in the third century under Emperor Claudius III.

The story of San Valentino is complicated further by the fact that multiple churches around the world, from Prague to Dublin, claim to house relics of the saint.

According to legend Valentinus (the Latin version of his name) secretly performed Christian weddings for couples, defying a ban by the emperor Claudius, before being caught and imprisoned.

Another legend has it that San Valentino signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, with whom he had fallen in love, while awaiting execution.

After refusing to renounce his faith, Valentino was beaten with clubs and beheaded on the Via Flaminia on 14 February 269.

The skull of St Valentine (we leave it up to you to decide which Valentino exactly) can be visited at the Basilica di S. Maria in Cosmedin, in Piazza Bocca della Verità 18, every day from 09.30 to 17.50.

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