Procession of Valentine's relics at Lesvos island

The relics of Saint Valentine are guided in a litany through the town of Mytilene on his name day. One of the few Catholic litanies taking place in Greece.
Photography / Text: Michael Pappas

I had read in an Internet article that there was a litany of St Valentine's relics in Mytilene. 

So, I got into the first boat leaving for Mytilene. It would be a 12 hour voyage but I did not want to miss this custom for any reason.

It was hard to find the Catholic church even if it is located in a very central spot of the town, in the street where all commercial shops are situated. I passed in front of the church but I didn't notice it. I asked a random guy to tell me where it is. It was my first time in a Catholic church!

Few people were there but as time was passing by, more and more people were entering the church, after all the evening prayer was about to start. After the mass, the Catholic priests lifted the box with St. Valentine's relics on their shoulders and started the litany along the central streets. The litany passes from the port, the priests sanctified the waters and continue along the main road by the port, although passing cars made it a little but difficult.  

There was a lot of honking and protesting against the litany. The police and the municipality should had closed the streets for half an hour to let the litany pass, to protect people from getting into any accident. 

The litany came to its end and I went back to my bed. I had rented a small bed inside a home where a local family was living, using a well known online service, so that I minimise my costs. 

The next morning, many people were attending the Morning Mass. At another floor of the church there was a choir which I visited to make some images, since I had access to it. After the end, I asked to visit the priest at his desk to make a picture of him. At the street outside, some more events were taking place, consisting of horse carriages and some dancing shows. 

I found a nice old cafe at a narrow alley and sat to have some Tsipouro of Mytilene (greek traditional alcoholic drink, made by distilled grapes). I went inside because I could see behind the window an old man with a long beard. There was no other place to sit inside, so I joined him, not paying attention to the rest of the people who advised otherwise.

After a while I asked him to roll a cigarette using his tobacco, so that I could start a conversation. The tobacco was not branded and was mouldy. I was too shy not to use it. He used to be a seaman and he was performing haemodialysis every week. He was living inside a skinny and tired body but his look and voice were steady and decisive. He probably had a lot to share but I had no more time, I had to go. Next to us there were some fishermen from Turkey. They had been blocked by weather in Mytilene and were having Tsipouro until it cleared out.

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Procession of Valentine's relics at Lesvos island

EO36 Mitilini
Mytilene, North Aegean, Greece