John Spratt, an Irish Carmelite and local of Cork Street, Dublin was reportedly a great orator and strong supporter of the local poor. He had studied theology and philosophy in Spain before his return to Dublin in 1822. In 1825 he acquired lands on which to build a church. The lands had once been held by the Carmelite Order in medieval Dublin pre Reformation. The church was finalised in 1827. Designed by George Papworth, a noted architect, it would undergo extensive development through the 1800’s to facilitate the large congregations.
Today the church retains a considerable footfall from the local congregation and passing tourists seeking out the relics of Saint Valentine. The relics of the 13th century Saint Valentine, who was executed by Claudius II, Emperor of Rome, arrived in Dublin in 1836.
The relics were sent to Ireland by of Pope Gregory XVI. The arrival of the relics were accompanied by a letter from the then Pope stating them to be to be the remains of Saint Valentine including “a vessel tainted with his blood”.
The relics were obtained following a visit to Rome from Father John Spratt in 1835, where he addressed the principle church of Jesuits.
The interior of the church is incredibly ornate and beautiful in contrast to the exterior of the church which is rather flat and dark. As well as Saint Valentines’ relics the church has some very interesting shrines. One of which is that of Blessed Titus Brandsma. Brandsma was a member of the Order and a journalist by profession who fought against the Nazi ideology. He died in Dachau in 1942.
John Spratt was also responsible for obtaining the statue of “Our Lady of Dublin”, an oak statue thought to have been created in the early 16th century. It’s thought the statue was once venerated in Saint Mary’s Abbey. Saint Mary’s Abbey was located on the north side of the River Liffey but the lands were surrendered during the Reformation, and the statue was lost until it was discovered by Spratt in a second hand shop in Capel Street in 1824.
The church is beautiful and worth visiting. The Rosary Windows date back over 180 years. Since restored, they were originally designed by the famous Dublin craftsmen, Early & Company.
If you intend to visit be aware that this is a functional church with masses held daily. For full information a 360 degree tour and the history of all the shrines you can visit their website here