Unexpected Rome: The Skull of St. Valentine

We don’t “do” Valentine’s Day in this house.

I could give you some blah blah about consumerism and Hallmark, but the real reason we are just not that into it is because our anniversary is a few days later.

We will mark 5 years of conscious coupling next week.

A cheesy dinner celebration because a saint died over a thousand years ago is not the excuse we are looking for to get out of the house.  We will just wait for our anniversary and be cheesy then.

However, there is a better (/more morbid) way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Rome.

La bocca della verita

You know the Mouth of Truth?

Of course you do.

For some reason, it is ridiculously famous.

It sits in the portico of the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin, near Circo Massimo.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

I think you should skip the line and forget waiting to take a photo of the Bocca della Verità and head inside the church instead.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome

As far as Roman churches go, this does not have the elaborate altar of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.

Or the storied history of the catacombs of Basilica San Clemente. (Though it does have a teeny tiny underground area that, frankly, is not worth the 1 euro you will be charged to see it).

church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin

However, it is a lovely and old old old church from the 8th century.

It’s most famous attraction is La Bocca della Verità, but it’s most interesting attraction is often overlooked.

skull of St. Valentine

The skull of St. Valentine is just chillin’ right there in Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

st valentine relics in Rome

Valentine was a third century Roman saint.

St. Valentine was martyred and beheaded. His crime? Helping Christian couples wed.

He was buried near Ponte Milvio, and his relics were later enshrined at this small church across the street from the temple of Hercules.

skull of St Valentine in Rome

To be fair, there is some confusion about the number of Roman St. Valentines from the 3rd century.

This confusion is compounded by the number of skulls and skull fragments dotted throughout Catholic churches from Poland to Ireland.

But I like to believe this one, right here, is the real deal.

Isn’t that romantic?

Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18,
00186 Roma, Italy

Open: Everyday, 9:30 am – 6:00 pm.

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