Valentine’s Day is celebrated every year on February 14 around the world. This day is considered as a day to celebrate love and romance. But what is the true history of this Love Day? Turns out it is not as romantic as one might think. |
Who was Saint Valentine?
Saint Valentine was a Christian Roman priest who lived during the time of Emperor Claudius II (also known as Claudius Gothicus, he reigned from 268 CE – until 270 CE). According to legend, Emperor Claudius was experiencing massive turmoil at that time, with threats of invasion all around. He needed many good soldiers to fight his battles. Claudius believed that unmarried soldiers fought better than married ones, for they didn’t have to worry about their families if they died. Because of that reason, allegedly he issued an edict that prohibited his young soldiers to marry.
Saint Valentine, a compassionate priest decided to help these young soldiers to marry secretly. It has been speculated that one of the reasons why he decided to go against the Emperor was because the church considered marriage as a sacred unity between one man and one woman for life, and the marriage ban would only cause the young soldiers to do sinful act. Christians were a minority group and were persecuted during the reign of Claudius, so Saint Valentine saw an opportunity to help the young soldiers to marry within the Christian church, thus spreading the religious teaching at the same time.
Sadly, Saint Valentine was caught and tortured. The legend continued and told that while Saint Valentine was in prison, he met the daughter of one of the Romans who imprisoned him, Asterius. Asterius’ daughter, named Julia was blind. Saint Valentine managed to cure her and due to this action, Asterius converted to Christianity.
Finally, Saint Valentine was sentenced to death by beheading. However, before he died he wrote a farewell note for Julia and signed it with “from your Valentine”. Allegedly, this is how the tradition of sending cards to our loved ones during this Day of Love.
How did Valentine become a holiday?
Saint Valentine was martyred on 14 February 296 CE and was buried on Via Flaminia, Rome. The relics of this Saint were kept in the Church and the Catacombs of San Valentino, Rome. The site became an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until they were removed to Santa Prassede Church. Only the flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine remained in the Basilica, Rome. Saint Valentine’s Day was first commemorated in 496 CE by the order of Pope Gelasius. However, since the revision of the Roman Calendar of Saints in 1969 CE the Church removed the holiday from the calendar because not much is known concerning him.
In fact, there were several other saints who were also martyred with the same name. One was Valentine of Terni and another Valentine who was martyred in the Roman province of Africa. Even though the Catholic Church no longer honors this day, some other Christian churches still do and today it is celebrated all over the world as the Day of Love.
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