Love on Saint Valentine’s Day

Known as the patron saint of lovers, epileptics, and beekeepers, Saint Valentine still plays an important role in our lives today.

Since the Middle Ages, St Valentine’s Day has been known as the date when birds start to pair and mate! This is due to the ‘Fools Spring’ in the middle of the month, when the temperature rises just a few degrees.

Summer migrants such as plovers, snipes and Oystercatchers begin to move from the coast to the uplands.

Who was Saint Valentine- perhaps he was the priest beheaded in 270AD. A common legend states that he defied the Emperor Claudius II’s orders and secretly married couples, to spare the husbands from war

Alternatively, it may have been the Bishop of Terni, also beheaded by Claudius. He was stopped in the act of assisting Christians to escape imprisonment.

According to another legend, St. Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter. He had befriended and healed her from blindness.

The Roman Fertility Festival of Lupercalia took place in the middle of February. The 14th was chosen by the church to Christianise an event, which the Pagans looked forward to. Find out more about the life and times of the Romans in Canterbury.

In 1836, St Valentine’s mortal remains were given to a Carmelite Priest – Father John Spratt, by Pope Gregory XVI. The relics in a black and gold casket were taken to the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar’s Street, Dublin. Visit the church on Valentine’s Day to see his relics!

Valentine’s Day was also a reminder to farmers in the past, to start sowing their spring crops and check their seed harrows are in working order before the Spring arrives!

This is the part of the Fleming Window at St Bartholomew’s Church, Nettlebed, Oxfordshire. Find out more about the window and the church here

Churches Kent Saints

Saint Clement’s Day

23rd November is known as Saint Clement’s Day but in the Middle Ages was also considered to be the beginning of Winter.

Saint Clement was the fourth Christian Pope who lived from 53 to 117 AD. After being banished to the Crimea, he converted heathens to Christianity and built 75 churches. Emperor Trajan then had him thrown into the Black Sea, with an anchor tied around his neck. He is usually depicted alongside a ship and anchor. Saint Clement is also known as the Patron Saint of Marble Workers.

Right on my doorstep is the beautiful medieval church of Old Romney, which lies in the heart of Romney Marsh. Old Romney was once a port, and therefore it’s dedication to Saint Clement is perhaps unsurprising. The church is well worth a visit as it contains many unique and unusual features including a beautiful altar made of local stone and a tomb thought to be that of a Crusader!

The church dates to the twelfth century and was badly damaged in world war two. It was saved thanks to a local book – ‘Doctor Syn,’ which was set in Dymchurch and written by Russell Thorndike. Walt Disney Productions asked to use the interior of the church, painting it pink and black and giving the church a donation to fund it’s repairs.

Saint Clement’s is one of thirteen fabulous medieval churches, which are looked after by the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust.

The Altar at the East end
Saints stained glass

St George

The 23rd April is known as St George’s Day with St George being the most revered saint in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches.

George is the patron saint of England and of twelve other countries too!

In AD 303, George was a tribune and a member of the Emperor Diocletian’s personal guard.

Diocletian had George subjected to various barbaric tortures in an effort to make him recant, before having him beheaded.

The legend of St George and the Dragon grew during the Crusades, with St George representing the forces of Christian good, fighting the dragon of Islam.

Many old English Inns were named ‘St George & the Dragon’ and today you can still see St George fighting the Dragon depicted in stained glass and wood as seen here.


St Gregory the Great

Our next Saint is St Gregory whose death we commemorate on 12th March each year. The Second Vatican Council revised the General Roman Calendar in 1969, moving his Feast Day to 3rd September, which was the day of his consecration in 590AD, as of course 12th March falls during Lent.

Pope Gregory 1, also known as Gregory the Great was born around 540AD and died in 604AD

It was Pope Gregory the Great who sent Augustine on a mission to England to convert pagans to Christianity following King Ethelbert’s marriage to a Christian wife – Bertha. Gregory went on to become a very important figure in church history and Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Although Gregory suffered from chronic indigestion and slow fevers, caused by a lifetime of prolonged fasting, he had a huge influence on the doctrine, discipline and organisation of the early Catholic Church.

Gregory is also the Patron Saint of of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.

During his final years, he was also a martyr to gout, a most unpleasant disease of the foot.

St Gregory’s Day used to be remembered as ‘Farmer’s Day’ when the clergy went into the fields to bless the Spring crops.

Depictions of Saint Gregory can be seen in many churches local to Kent such as Wye,, which is dedicated to both St Gregory & St Martin. Gregory is depicted in the West window together with St Martin of Tours either side of Christ in Majesty.

Canterbury Cathedral has two figures on the handsome pulpit in the Nave, with cope and mitre, which represent Augustine of Canterbury shown here on the left and Pope Gregory 1 on the right hand side.

Immanuel Giel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The relics of Saint Gregory are enshrined in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.


Saint Andrew

Welcome to this first in a series of posts about Saints – today we are looking at the Patron Saint of Scotland – Saint Andrew, shown above on the right panel in stained glass at the Church of St Mary, Hillborough, Kent.

We don’t know much about Andrew – just that he was born in Galilee, now Lebanon and like his brother Simon Peter, he was a fisherman. Andrew, along with Peter, James and John were part of the circle of Jesus’ 12 apostles. Patras in Greece claims to be the place where he was martyred and crucified on a cross. St Andrew is said to have travelled great distances in order to spread the word, and it may be this which links him with Scotland. One story says he actually went to Scotland and built a church in Fife- now the town of St Andrews and known today as the ‘Home of Golf’., St Andrews is said to have the oldest golf course in the world as well as Scotland’s oldest University! The church became a centre for evangelism and pilgrims came from all over Britain to pray there. Another ancient legend says that after the death of Andrew, sometime in the 4th century, several of his relics were brought to Fife by Rule, a native of Patras, in Greece. This may explain why Andrew is now the Patron Saint of Scotland. Churches were dedicated to him from early times throughout Italy and France as well as in Anglo-Saxon England, where Hexham and Rochester were the earliest of 637 medieval dedications. Above you can see a picture of the Pulpitum screen in Rochester Cathedral, Kent showing a stone carving of St Andrew on the left hand side. St Andrew died on 30th November, AD 60 in Patras. The story claims he believed himself unworthy of being crucified on a cross, so instead he met his end on a ‘saltire’, or X-shaped cross (St Andrew’s cross), which later became his symbol. His cross, in white on a blue background, remains the proud symbol of Scotland today and forms a central component of the Flag of the Union of Great Britain.

There are Saint Andrew’s Societies all over the world, which are independent organisations, who organise social events, which celebrate, promote and preserve Scottish Heritage. Many of these are in the USA and the recent ‘Outlander’ books written by Diana Gabaldon and then televised, have done much to promote the links between Scotland and America.

Thanks to Phillip Halling and Penny Mayes for their images from Geograph UK.