Spread the love and spoil your beloved. We’ve got fascinating, unique and beautiful places to share. St Valentine, St Dwynwen and St Raphael all link love and lovely churches. Our churches host weddings, with all the traditions and rites we adore. And there are the romantic poets, buried beneath their floors and grassy churchyards. There are so many reasons to #lovechurches but what are yours?
The magnificent tiered spire of St Bride’s church on Bride Lane, London is thought to be the inspiration behind the modern day wedding cake. The story goes that in the early part of the 19th century, a pastry chef from Fleet Street called Mr Rich copied Wren’s unusual design when creating a cake for his daughter’s wedding. The name St Bride is mere coincidence, being named after St Bride of Kildare, a 6th century saint.
This Glasgow friary is neither grand nor imposing, but within its walls is something no other place of worship in Scotland has, something responsible for Glasgow’s informal title as the City of Love. On the left hand side of the light, wood panelled interior is an ornate 3ft wide chest, known as a reliquary. It is gilded with the words ‘Corpus Valentini Martyris’. Inside, shielded from the public by a thick glass pane, are mortal remains of St Valentine.
Getting married in Gretna Green has a romantic legacy spanning more than 260 years. People have been marrying here since 1754 and today nearly 2000 couples tie the knot or renew their vows. The timbered roof and Gothic stained glass windows of the Gretna old parish church are fragments from that period in Gretna Green's history, even before the runaway weddings began!
One of the historic highlights of this Devon church is an organ built in 1696 by Christian and Bernard Schmidt. This massive instrument is beautifully carved, with some of the work attributed to Grinling Gibbons. The organ was used for the first performance of Mendelssohn's 'Wedding March'. It was played by organist Samuel Reay at the wedding of Dorothy Carew and Tom Daniel on 2 June 1847.
According to the Catholic Church, St Valentine is incorrectly associated with finding love. Whilst he is the patron saint for those who have already found their soulmate, St Raphael is the patron saint for happy encounters and so it is to him that those fearing the Valentine's post should properly direct their prayers. This beautiful Italianate church was built by Alexander Raphael as a family chapel.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and among the finest lyric, as well as epic, poets. A radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views, Shelley did not see fame during his lifetime, but recognition for his poetry grew steadily following his death. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome, but his heart lies in a family vault here, along with his wife Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein).
Dig your bare toes into the soft sand beyond Llanddwyn Beach. There, in the near distance, is the Welsh Island of Love. Llanddwyn Island, just off Anglesey, is named after St Dwynwen, who retreated to the island in the early 5th century after an unhappy love affair. She became known as the patron saint of lovers and pilgrimages were made to her holy well on the island.
Poet, lover, rebel, exile, freedom fighter, Lord Byron lived the life of the romantic heroes he wrote about and set the pattern for all free spirits challenging convention ever since. The Byronic spirit lives on but his earthly remains rest in the family vault here.
Many of our current wedding traditions stem from the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, held in the Chapel Royal in 1840. She was one of the first to wear a white dress, an unusual choice at a time when colours were more usual, made from heavy silk satin and lace. The wedding also featured both the Bridal March and Wedding March, both now commonly used.
Although there are four weddings in Four Weddings and Funeral, it is at the funeral that the film so eloquently describes love in the word of a WH Auden poem: ‘He was my north, My south, My east and west, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, My midnight, my talk, my song, I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.’ The funeral scenes were shot at this beautiful church.
William Wordsworth created a new kind of poetry that emphasised intuition over reason and the pastoral over the urban; known to us as English Romantic Poetry. Born in Cumbria his boyhood was full of adventure among the hills. In 1799 he settled at Dove Cottage in Grasmere. Eight yew trees by the churchyard wall of St Oswalds were planted by Wordsworth, and he is buried in the churchyard with family members.
There is no record of Valentine's Day before Chaucer's poem of 1375. In the Parliament of Foules he links the tradition of courtly love to the St Valentine's feast day. The poem refers to 14th February as the day of birds coming together to find a mate. He wrote: ‘For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day, Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate’. Chaucer is buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.
St Raphael is also known as the patron saint of travellers. St Raphael's Chapel situated in the beautiful hamlet of Huccaby on Dartmoor, is a place of peace and tranquillity. Built in 1868 as a combined chapel and schoolroom, it has the distinction of being the only Anglican chapel in the country to be dedicated to the Archangel St Raphael.