The Patron Saint of Crete Love

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The body of Saint Yakinthos, the saint of love, is venerated in a Catholic church in Bavaria. Credit: Richard Huber/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

February 14 is the globally celebrated Valentine’s Day, internationally known as the day of lovers. Millions of stores around the world are lavishly decorated in red, and large 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 Saint Hyacinth, the patron saint of pure and noble feelings, as well as creation and inspiration.

The commemoration of his life, however, unlike that of Saint 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 the sacrifice of his life by this young man for his beliefs.

The feast of Saint Yakinthos of Anogeia is celebrated every year on July 3, in the mountainous region of Anogeia in Rethemno.

The “Yakintheia”, as the Feast of Martyrs is called, celebrated every summer, is at the heart of a series of cultural events that last three days and are gaining popularity both inside and outside the country.

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Local songwriter Loudovikas ton Anogion, one of the coordinators of the annual festival, said poignantly that “Agios Yakinthos is not the saint of love but the saint of emotion that is remembered and which we hope”.

Saint Yakinthos was a martyr

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

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

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

Emperor Trajan asked Yakinthos to renounce his faith in Christ after noticing that Yakinthos refused to participate in ceremonial pagan sacrifices.

Yakinthos, who categorically refused to do so, was then thrown into a prison 12 kilometers (7 miles) south of Anogeia in Crete. He was fed food soaked in the blood of animals sacrificed to idols.

The saint, who subsequently refused to eat for forty days, then died of starvation at age 20, becoming a martyr for Christ.

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

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


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