St. Valentine – 3rd Century A.D.
When we think of Valentine’s Day we think of flowers, chocolates love and of course, romance but while all that may be true that fact is the full history of Valentine’s Day and the priest the holiday is named after is not really known. Perhaps this is why the Roman Catholic Church no longer recognizes the holiday on their liturgical calendar. The truth is there were a few priests named Valentine that lived and died about the same time, both of which were supposedly beheaded so there really isn’t enough information documented to know which priest the holiday was named after. Either way, so far it doesn’t sound very romantic does it?
Having said that, I do like this version of the history and so, in brief, I want to share it with you.
The feast of the Lupercalia (named after the pastoral god Lupercus) was celebrated in Rome on Feb 15 th where rituals were held to ward of wolves and eventually turned into a fertility holiday. On the eve before the feast young lovers pledged their love to each other and declared promises of marriage within the year. But during the third century Rome was at war and the Roman Empire divided.
It was during this Crisis of the Third Century the Roman Empire that the Valentine holiday was said to have evolved. Since the Empire was divided into 3 separate states there were threats of invasion all around and so Emperor Claudius II, ruler of Rome at that time, decided to bann marriages among all young people. He believed that unmarried soldiers would fight better and were more fearless than married soldiers and he needed his men in full war mode to hold on to his Empire.
Young lovers everywhere distressed and needed an ally so they turned to priest Valentine for help. The sympathetically romantic and God loving Valentine began performing secret marriage ceremonies among the lovers – until Claudius discovered the act and had him imprisoned for treason. Some say that during this time young children were known to pass Valentine secret notes through prison bars. It is also said that before his beheading he signed at least one such note to his jailer’s daughter whom he cured of blindness “Your Valentine”. Author Greg Tobin believed this is where the tradition of Valentine Day note giving originated.
As Tobin states: The priest was eventually beheaded and then named a martyr by the Church because he gave up his life to perform the sacrament of marriage: for love of love and love of God.
So at the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day and the romantic holiday was born.