The Three St. Valentine’s of Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The history of Valentine’s Day is long, with the first record of Valentine’s celebrations being associated to courtly love, dating back to 1400 France.

image of Saint Valentine

However, the history of Valentine’s dates back even further to three martyred saints, who had the given name of Valentine. Each of these men lived long before the first Valentine’s celebration began in France during the Middle Ages.

So what do we know about these men?

  1. Valentine of Terni—he became bishop of a city in Central Italy named that is today named Terni, but used to be known as Interamna. During the reign of Emperor Aurelian, he was martyred in 273.
  2. Valentine of Rome—was a priest in Rome who was martyred in 269. In 496, Pope Galesius added him to the calendar of Saints.  He was buried on the Via Flaminia, which is a rode that led from Rome into the Apennine Mountains.  In the 8th Century, a book called Bede’s Martyrology, claimed that Roman Emperor Claudius II attempted to convert Valentine to Roman paganism.  When he refused, and tried to convert Claduius to Christianity, he was sentenced to death.  However, not before healing the daughter of his jailer and converting that entire household to Christianity.  Various legends also state that he secretly married couples, cut out hearts and left a letter on the day of his execution signed “Your Valentine”.  This man is considered the official St. Valentine for whom the holiday is named.
  3. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there is a third saint named Valentine who is mentioned on the date of February 14th under early lists of the martyrs. The only thing known of this Valentine is he was martyred with his companions in Africa.  Queen Emma added his head to the New Minster abbey in Winchester, England in 1041.

 

Little is known about any of these men and often the legends are confusing as to which of these men the stories pertain to.  Some of the stories are believed to have been combined from two or more men named Valentine.  It is also stated there were other men and martyrs through the years named Valentine.

 

Relics of St. Valentine can be found all over the world.

relic of St. Valentine
  • Archaeologist have uncovered Roman catacombs to an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine.
  • A flower crowned skull of St. Valentine can be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.
  • Pope Gregory XVI gifted Fr. John Spratt with a “small vessel tinged” with St. Valentine’s blood in 1836. He gift now stands in the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.
  • Other relics are said to be located in various churches across Europe, although I could not find specifics to the relics at these numerous churches.

 

So while there is a lot of confusion regarding St. Valentine, he did exist, in the form of not one or two men but many men.   Their sacrifice and faith led the Catholic church to classify them as martyrs and some even as Saints.  In time their legends spread to become the holiday we know today as Valentine’s Day.