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The Mystery of Saint Valentine

Valentine's Day, Saint Valentine's Day or The Feast of Saint Valentine is celebrated on the 14th February. It is a day to celebrate love and is observed by giving flowers; particularly roses, chocolates, gifts, and cards. According to the Greeting Card Association nearly 160 million Valentines cards are sent every year.  

But who was Saint Valentine? What is the mystery surrounding Saint Valentine? Why is he the Patron Saint of love? 

All will be revealed.

Image: Flower Heart by Bartosz Szamborski - Creative Commons  Via Wikimedia commons.

There is More Than One Saint Valentine

The name Valentine derives from the word Valens which in Latin means Strong, healthy, vigorous.

There are three Saint Valentines or rather Valentinus, that have connections with the 14th February. One a Roman priest, one the Bishop of Iteramna, now know as Terni in Italy and another who was martyred in the Roman Province of Africa; now known as Tunisia. Very little is known about this St.Valentine.

Who is the Real Saint Valentine?

Two Saints two stories - Part 1

Saint Valentine lived and was martyred in the third century. However there are two conflicting stories; who is the Saint Valentine that is celebrated by the Feast of Saint Valentine?
The most popular belief is that Saint Valentine was a Roman priest; he was executed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius II.  
Claudius II was fighting many wars and considered single men the best soldiers. He thought that
by being married the men would not fight well; they would be afraid to die as they would be considering their wives and children. Polygamy (from the Greek words Many and Wedding) was very commonplace in Roman times, some of Claudius's soldier had more than one wife. He passed a law forbidding all marriages.

Many Romans were not happy with being forbidden to marry, and there were also those who were attracted to becoming Christians. The Christians were persecuted by Claudius at this time and helping them was also a crime.
In secret Valentine carried out Christian ceremonies, including marriages of Christians and Romans, including Soldiers. This however did not stay a secret; he was discovered conducting a marriage ceremony and was arrested and imprisoned.

Emperor Claudius was said to have taken a liking to Valentine and tried to persuade him to become a Pagan. Valentine refused and tried to convert the emperor to Christianity this was not taken very lightly, Valentine was sentenced to death. He was beaten with stones and clubs which failed to kill him, and so he was beheaded on the 14th February by the Via Flaminius near Rome.

Image:St-Valentine-Kneeling-In-Supplicationby David Teniers III [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Part 2

Another story involves another Saint Valentine the Bishop of Interamna (Terni) He was under the house arrest of Judge Asterius for practicing Christianity. The Judge was drawn into a conversation by the the Bishop about the validity of Christianity. The Judge decided to test Valentine and stated that if he could restore the sight of his adopted daughter he would do anything Valentine asked of him.

The Judge's daughter was brought before Valentine he laid his hands upon her and prayed, and her sight was restored. Judge Asterius kept his word; he would do anything Valentine asked of him. Valentine asked him to fast for three days and be baptised a Christian. Judge Asterius became a Christian along with the rest of his family; he also freed all of the Christians imprisoned by his authority.  

Valentine was arrested at a later date, and sent Rome for continuing to convert Romans to Christians and was brought before the Roman Emperor Aurelia. Valentine refused to renounce his faith and was sentenced to death by beheading. The night before Valentine was to be beheaded, he was rumoured to have sent a note to the daughter of Judge Asterius who he loved. He asked her to remain near to God and to be thankful for the healing miracle of her restored sight. The note was signed "By Your Valentine"

This Saint Valentine was also executed on the 14th February by the Via Flaminia.
Both of stories could be about the same Saint Valentine, but they were at different times and they were buried in difference locations along the Via Flaminia. 

ImageSaint Valentine byJacopo Bassano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Festival of Lupercalia

The annual Festival of Lupercalia was celebrated in Rome between the 13th - 15th February and was connected to fertility. The 14th February was also a day of celebration of the Roman Goddess Juno, the Goddess of women and marriage. The pagan tradition was for men to draw the names of women from a jar. Whoever was chosen would be their partner for the rest of the festival; other accounts state the woman would the man's sexual companion for the rest of the year.

By the fifth century Christian Rome banned the performance of pagan rites. Pope Gelasius I was reputed to have replaced the pagan festival of Lupercalia with the Feast of Saint Valentine. Young men and women would draw out the names of saints from a jar; they would try to emulate them for the rest of the year.  

The middle of February in the middle ages was associated with "Spring Fever" were birds would choose there mates and romantic feeling were not just for birds but humans too. Thus the 14th February became dedicated to love, and love letters and gifts were given to the object of ones affection. Saint Valentine was then associated as the Patron Saint of Love and Valentine's Day was born. 

In the 19th century mass produced cards replaced the hand written notes. Then began the tradition of giving flowers and chocolates, and Valentines candy along with other gifts.
The 20th century saw the advent of sending Valentine's e cards, and who knows how it will be celebrated in years to come.

Image - Valentine Card from 1862 - Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia commons