The 14th of February has prevailed as the International Day of romantic Love. According to Western Christianity, the date celebrates the death anniversary of Saint Valentine who died in mid-February in 270 AD. Valentine a priest, a Roman priest and physician who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Christians by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. Defying the emperors’ orders he kept secretly marrying couples to spare husbands from war.
His story is widely known, but how many are aware of St Hyacinth or Agios Yakinthos, the Greek Orthodox patron saint of love, youth and loving couples, celebrated on 3 July?
Yakinthos became widely known in Crete in 1998 when the composer and singer ‘Loudovikos ton Anoyion’ founded the not-for-profit company ‘Agios Yakinthos’ together with 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 Stavros Vidalis.
The church sits at 1200 m. on Psiloritis mountain 12 km from Anogia where a festival of love and various cultural events are held each year, the ‘Yakinthia’.
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. From his blood sprang a beautiful flower, the hyacinth.
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, revealing he had embraced the then new faith asking him 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 represents 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”.
Here is a song Loudovikos ton Anogeion which has written for the saint: