Saint Valentine is one of the Church’s most beloved saints, and every year millions of Catholics around the world celebrate his feast day on the 14th of February showing signs of affection towards their loved ones. Now you can see the face of the saint of love, thanks to a 3D digital construction.
The face of Saint Valentine was reconstructed by one of Brazil’s leading 3D graphic designers, Cicero Moraes, who has become famous in the field of forensic facial reconstruction. In the past, he has reconstructed the faces of Saints Anthony of Padua, Rose of Lima, and Martin de Porres, Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus – even Mary Magdalene.
Cicero Moraes partnered with photographer José Luís Lira, president of the Brazilian Academy of Hagiology. In October 2016, Lira was in Rome working on other projects when a salesman handed him a card with a picture of Saint Valentine – giving him the idea to do a facial reconstruction of the beloved saint.
“I was in Saint Peter’s Square when one of the many sellers there gave me a picture of Saint Valentine. I took it as a sign to see if I could get unthinkable, close up access to the skull in the Basilica. The chance to do the facial reconstruction of one of the Roman Catholic church’s most important and venerated relics has been a life-long dream.“
Dean of the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Father Mtanious Hadad, was quick to give Lira permission to carry out the procedure. In an unprecedented move, the church closed its doors to the public for 40 minutes. Not able to touch the skull, one of the Church’s most venerated relics, Lira took 250 pictures in total to build a digital model of Saint Valentine’s skull.
Moraes whittled down the pictures to just 43 for the 3D reconstruction, using layering and sculpting of soft tissue and muscle onto the skull along with matching skin pigmentation. The result: a grey-haired bearded saint in his mid 50’s, corresponding to the age of the skull.
“The video illustrates a process called Retopo which uses 3D mesh sculpting on the base of the face and data processing to build up all the other features. Saint Valentine’s final look is based on skeletal, scientific and historical research and draws on years of my experience.”
Moraes carried out the work in Church of San Jorge in Monselice in the Italian province of Padua, overseen by Church officials during his time there. He called the process time consuming, but worth it.
“This has been an exciting, complicated and rare project to do. It’s not often that you get access to a precious and suitably relevant relic like this. We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. We worked on this project for three months and unveiling Saint Valentine’s face is a reminder of why this dedicated day of affection first started. Our work also gives the world a visual reference of who we should be thanking for the celebrations.”
You can watch below a video showing the process of Saint Valentine’s facial reconstruction by Moraes.