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Saint Yakinthos: Crete’s Valentine Equivalent

The Greek island of Crete has its own saint connected to love, namely Saint Yakinthos, comparable to St. Valentine.Credit: Flickr / Marcu Ioachim Public Domain

February 14th is the globally-celebrated day of Saint Valentine, internationally known as the day of lovers. Millions of stores around the world are lavishly decorated in red and vast quantities of roses, chocolates, and stuffed animals are sold and consumed often at high prices.

However, few people know that the Greek island of Crete has its own saint associated with love, Saint Yakinthos, also known as St. Hyacinth, the patron saint of pure and noble sentiments, as well as creation and inspiration.

The commemoration of his life, however, unlike that of St. Valentine, who was also a martyr, has nothing to do with romantic love or “eros.” His memory concerns his total love for Christ, as evidenced by this young man’s sacrifice of his life for his beliefs.

Saint Yakinthos of Anogeia’s feast day is celebrated every year on July 3rd in the mountainous region of Anogeia in Rethymno.

The “Yakintheia,” as the martyr’s feast is called, is celebrated every summer and is the core of a series of cultural events which last for three days. The feast has grown in popularity both inside and outside of the country.

Local songwriter Loudovikos ton Anogion, one of the coordinators of the annual festival, has said poignantly that “Agios Yakinthos is not the saint of love but the saint of remembered and hoped-for emotion.”

Saint Yakinthos was a martyr

As part of Cretan tradition, people visit the temple of Saint Yakinthos, a small, round church made of stone which is located on Mount Psiloreitis at a height of 3,937 feet (1,200 meters).

The people of Anogeia had this new church built in 1998 to honor their beloved martyr. Constructed in the “mitato” style, it is a simple structure which resembles a typical shepherd’s hut.

According to the Orthodox Church, Saint Yakinthos, who was born in Cappadocia in the year 98, was a high-ranking courtier to Emperor Traianos (Trajan).

The Emperor Trajan asked Yakinthos to renounce his faith in Christ after he noticed that Yakinthos refused to partake in ceremonial pagan sacrifices.

Yakinthos, who flatly refused to do so, was then thrown into a prison located 7 miles (12 kilometers) south of Anogeia in Crete. He was fed food which had been steeped in blood from animals that had been sacrificed to idols.

The saint, who thereafter refused to eat for forty days, subsequently starved to death at twenty years of age, becoming a martyr for Christ.

The guards then found Yakinthos in his cell surrounded by angels who were holding candles. Emperor Trajan, enraged, then ordered the martyr’s remains to be thrown to the wild animals, but his body remained untouched as the angels continued to guard it.

The Assumption Catholic Church in Bavaria, which was the site of a Cistercian Abbey, claims to possess the entire preserved body of Saint Yakinthos.

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