What it is and where it is
Some time ago, while rearranging my bookshelf, I found a small gold key attached to a safety pin. One of the sides is engraved with the words "Valentine's Day protect you." I investigated a bit and what I discovered first made me smile, then passionate. It is an ancient story, one that tries to explain why Monselice remains one of the few places where Saint Valentine , protector of Children and Epileptics, is remembered on February 14.
Why it is special
There are many couples in love who walk the road of Monselice's seven little churches. After all, the scenery from above is very romantic. The real celebration, however, is for the families who take the little ones from home on a pilgrimage to the oratory of San Giorgio at the top of the climb. There the parish priest waits for them and hands each one a small golden blessed key. According to tradition, the key symbolizes St. Valentine's protection against the falling sickness, epilepsy, but also the possibility of opening the gates of Heaven. A custom that precedes the festival of love we all know today.
Not to be missed
The seven little churches in Monselice are very small, almost chapels: each one is named after one of the great Roman basilicas and has a thematic altarpiece inside. The largest is precisely the Oratory of St. George, which holds the relics of three saints. One of them is, indeed, St. Valentine.
A bit of history
Whether the Saint Valentine who rests in Monselice is the one who protects the sick and epileptics, or the one who protects lovers, or both, is hard to say. These are events dating back to the early days of the Church, for which reality and myth are often confused. The tradition of the chiavette may tie in with the pagan origin of the February 14 celebration, when the Romans honored the goddess Febris, goddess of fever and protector against malaria. Although the Church tried to supplant her with celebrations of family love, in some areas, such as lower Padua, the link to the pagan goddess' powers seems to have survived.
The full name of the sanctuary of the seven little churches in Monselice is Santuario Giubilare delle Sette Chiese (Jubilee Sanctuary of the Seven Churches), desired by Pietro Duodo and thanks to him recognized in 1605 by Pope Paul V as a pilgrimage that would grant plenary indulgence to the faithful who made it with a sincere heart. It is not by chance that the churches are named after the major Roman basilicas: it was almost a compendium on Venetian soil of the pilgrim's journey to salvation, available to all those who did not have the strength or means to go all the way to Rome.
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