14 February 2016

San Valentino and Sant’Antonino

Celebrations for two different Italian saints

Saint Valentine, a third century Roman martyr, is commemorated with a feast day on this day every year.

His name has become associated with the tradition of courtly love but all that is really known about him is that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia in Rome on 14 February.

His feast day was first established in 496 by a Pope who revered him. It is thought he was imprisoned and tortured and then hastily buried, but that his disciples later retrieved his body.
Sorrento's Sant'Antonino looks across the square
 to the Basilica named after him.

During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired in mid-February and this is probably why Saint Valentine’s Day became associated with romance.

But while lovers all over the world raise a glass to Saint Valentine on this day, residents and visitors in Sorrento celebrate the festival of Sant’Antonino, the city’s patron saint.

Sant’Antonino Abate died on 14 February, 626. He is credited with saving the life of a child swallowed by a whale and also protecting Sorrento against plague and invasion.

Each year on the anniversary of his death, a silver statue of Sant’Antonino is carried in a procession through the streets of Sorrento and there are festive lights, fireworks, and musical events in his name.

Travel tip: 

Sant’Antonino’s body is buried in a crypt that became part of the Basilica di Sant’Antonino, a magnificent church that dates from the 11th century, but has been added to and refurbished over the years and is situated in Sorrento’s Piazza Sant’Antonino. Inside the Basilica, another statue of the saint is surrounded by the many offerings from sailors who have been saved from shipwrecks over the centuries and believe it was thanks to the intervention of Sant’Antonino.

Travel tip:

A statue of the Saint stands among the palm trees in the middle of Piazza Sant’Antonino opposite Sorrento’s town hall. Just off the square, the Via Santa Maria delle Grazie has many interesting shops, bars and restaurants, including the long-established Ristorante Sant'Antonino, named after the saint, which serves fish, seafood and Sorrentine specialities.


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