We celebrate Valentines Day every year, but who exactly was the Saint of Lovers?
1) St. Valentine isn’t just the Patron Saint of courting & engaged couples, lovers, love and happy marriages; his remit also includes epilepsy, fainting, greetings, plague, travellers, young people and … bee keepers (he is said to ensure the sweetness of honey)!
2) Although he is still recognized as a Saint, the Catholic Church officially removed St. Valentine from the holy calendar in 1969, because no one could agree on his real story or why he had been canonized in the first place.
3) Confusion about the Saint still arises from the fact that there were a number of Saint Valentines, two of which lived in Italy in the third century and were buried in Rome.
4) One of the Valentines was the Bishop of Terni in Umbria – a city now known as the ‘City of Lovers’ and the focus of celebrations in Italy on Valentines Day. Both Terni and Rome claim the Patron Saint as their own!
5) There’s definite proof that at least one Valentine or ‘Valentinus’ definitely existed – archaeologists in Rome discovered a catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine.
6) Valentine, a priest who ‘loved love’, was said to have defied the emperor Claudius and secretly married couples so that the husbands wouldn’t have to go to war. Legend says that Claudius was having a hard time recruiting soldiers for his campaigns at that time, so wasn’t too happy about this.
7) He was eventually imprisoned and the story goes that before his beheading on 14 February 269 B.C., he left a farewell love message for the jailor’s daughter signed ‘from your Valentine’. This phrase is of course still used today as the traditional Valentines Day message to a loved one.
8) In 498 A.D., Pope Gelasius made Valentine a Saint and declared February 14th the day of his feast. Historians believe that this may also have been a good way of substituting the pagan Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, dedicated to Juno (which took place at the same time) with a Christian observance.
9) St Valentine was finally adopted as the official Patron Saint of lovers in the 14th century, when the date was thought to be the beginning of the onset of Spring and of the mating season for birds.
10) Relics said to belong to the various St. Valentines can be found all over the world. The skull said the belong to St Valentine of Rome lies surrounded by flowers in a glass reliquary in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (better known as the church of the ‘Mouth of Truth’) in the Eternal City. You can find other parts of skeleton on display in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, England and France.
Happy Valentines Day!!