With Valentine's Day coming up, here is a little reminder, that this is actually not a day of love, chocolates, flowers, and stuffies. It is in reality a day of death.
Saint Valentine, statue on church altar
St. Valentine, who the "holiday" is named for, died on February 14th, in the 3rd century. He was a Saint recognized at one time by the catholic church and then removed in 1969 (Britannica, 2023). Why was he removed? Because...the church really could not obtain what they deemed as reliable information on the guy. There are too many "real" and vastly different stories about him that don't add up. So, was St. Valentine one guy? Or several? St. Valentine is still recognized as a saint, but he is no longer documented in the General Roman Calendar and has not been since 1969. He was named as a saint and was listed as a patron saint of epileptics, beekeepers, and...lovers (Britannica, 2023). Hence, where our story begins.
St. Valentine (again, based on unreliable information) was in some stories a Roman priest as well as a physician. He was martyred in Rome during the rein of emperor Claudius II Gothicus in about 270, during the Christian persecutions. Another telling of what is believed to maybe be the same story is that he was a bishop of Italy, but again was martyred in Rome due to his conspiracy against the emperor (Britannica, 2023).
The fairy tale begins and ends in one account that St. Valentine signed a letter with, "from your Valentine" on his day of death. This letter was to the daughter of his jailer, who he had helped heal her blindness (Britannica, 2023). During St. Valentines imprisonment, he and the girl had then become friends and in some telling, St. Valentine fell in love with the girl. This story transpired because St. Valentine was held prisoner in the home of one of the nobles. Once he healed the blind girl, the entire household converted to Christianity, which angered the emperor. He was then tortured, decapitated, and then put to the death, which was how in this story St. Valentine was martyred (Gershone, 2024). Just before his death, he sent the letter to the girl, signed "from your Valentine". I know this is supposed to be a sweet love story, but I get stuck on the idea of how old was St. Valentine and the daughter?
Another telling of the legend is that St. Valentine secretly married people, in defiance of the emperor's order, for the purpose of sparing husbands from war, as married men were not generally forced to go to war (Britannica, 2023). Husbands were seen as not being good soldiers as they missed their families too much. This sounds very romantic in some ways. Couples in love being married in secret. Forget the fact that they were only doing it so the man didn't have to go to war. It's still romantic. More so than some old guy falling in love with a daughter of a noble. St. Valentine was captured, beheaded, and again martyred upon his death for his conspiracy against the emperor (Gershone, 2024).
If you keep digging into the history of St. Valentine, you can find many different stories and tellings. Who knows what is real and what is made up. With these historical fairy tales in mind, how will you be spending our Valentine's Day?
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2023, October 10). St. Valentine. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Valentine
Gershone, L. (2024, January 30). Who was the real St. Valentine. The Many Myths Behind the Inspiration for Valentine's Day. https://www.history.com/news/real-st-valentine-medieval