Valentine’s Day, also known as St. Valentine’s Day and celebrated usually on February 14, started as the feast day for St. Valentine. The feast day was first created by Pope Gelasius in 496. Unlike the Saints we have previously examined, St. Lucia and St. Nicholas, very little is known about St. Valentine, or Valentinus as he was called in Rome at the time. In fact, there are as many as twelve saints known as St. Valentine, many of them dating back to the third, fourth, and fifth centuries C.E., as Valentius was a fairly common name at the time.
Three of those saints have been recognized on the feast day of the 14th of February: a Roman priest, a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy), and a saint from Africa Proconsularis, a Roman province in Africa. The two saints in Italy were killed on the same day and both buried near the Via Flaminia just outside of Rome. They may, in fact, be the same man.
There are many variations of St. Valentine’s Story, we’re going with the most common story.
As a result, it is no surprise that there are many variations to the story of the life and martyrdom of St. Valentine. Most commonly, Valentine (whether in Rome, Terni, or both) was arrested for aiding Christians and for performing marriages for soldiers. Both of these things were illegal at the time. While the latter is unconfirmed in the written record, the story has been handed down and told for centuries.
Emperor Claudius II thought that unmarried soldiers fought better than married ones and so forbid his soldiers to marry. Valentine performed many marriages among the soldiers. He would cut parchment hearts to give to them as a reminder of their vows.. At one point, Valentine was arrested. The judge Asterius told him that if he could cure his daughter Julia of her blindness, he would do whatever Valentine asked.
So Valentine placed his hands on her and prayed and her site was cured. Then Asterius asked him what he wanted. Valentine requested that he free the Christian prisoners, break the idols surrounding Asterius’ home, and be baptized. Asterius did so, not only having himself baptized but his entire family and household staff.
Valentine continued his work helping Christians and was arrested again.
This time he was brought before Emperor Claudius II. Claudius took a liking to Valentine, until Valentine tried to convert him to Christianity. After that attempt, Claudius condemned Valentine to being beaten by clubs and stones and then beheaded unless he renounced Christianity. Valentine refused, and so he was sentenced to death.
On the morning of his execution, he sent a note to Julia, Asterius’ daughter, that was signed “your Valentine”: the first Valentine. He was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on 14 February, 269.
While there are many other suppositions on how Valentine’s Day started, we found this to be the most plausible and easiest to follow. The dots connected, as it were.
Tomorrow, we’ll bring you a discussion on how Valentine’s Feast Day developed into the secular holiday many celebrate today!
Galen & RoseAnna
The Researcher’s Gateway