Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14, is widely
acknowledged as the day of expressing romantic love. Couples all around the
world look forward to spending time with each other, sharing gifts, chocolates
and champagne among other things.
According to Western Christianity, February
14 is the death anniversary of Saint Valentine who died in mid-February in 270
AD. Valentine was a Roman priest and physician. He was killed by emperor
Claudius II Gothicus for defying the emperor’s order, marrying couples to spare
husbands from the war. Saint Valentine’s story is widely known, but how many
are aware of Saint Hyacinth or Agios Yakinthos, the Greek Orthodox saint of
love, youth and loving couples, celebrated on 3 July?
Yakinthos became well known in Crete in 1998 when the
composer and singer ‘Loudovikos ton Anoyion’ founded the not-for-profit company
‘Agios Yakinthos’ with the residents of Anogia village, and the Metropolitan
Bishop of Rethymnon, in order to build a church for local saint Agios Yakinthos
on Mount Psiloritis. The proposal was accepted by Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew and a Cretan ‘mitato’ style stone temple was built by architect
The church is known for love and various cultural
events that are held each year, the ‘Yakinthia’. Many other churches for Agios
Yakinthos have been built in Araxos, Kalavryta and Mykonos.
Who was Yakinthos?
The saint was named after the Ancient Greek Hyacinthus,
a young and handsome prince of Sparta who preferred the company of Apollo and
lost his life due to the jealousy of his friends.
Agios Yakinthos (St Hyacinth) was born in Caesaria in
Cappadocia in 98 AD under the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan, who fought against
the spread of Christianity. Yakinthos was his chamberlain.
Yakinthos, who believed in love for all things and
creatures, found resonance in the teachings of Jesus Christ and confronted
Trajan. He had embraced the new faith asking Trajan to stop
persecuting people for choosing love. Trajan was deeply offended and had him
imprisoned. The young man, lasted 40 days without food, refusing to sacrifice
to false gods. He died at age 20, in the name of divine love.
Yakinthos represented unconditional love – undying
devotion and a vow to faith. He is also the saint of deep emotions, commitment,
creativity and inspiration and in Greek Orthodox faith he protects the
enamoured or those “in love”.