Chocolates, teddy bears and faux roses stack the shelves in late January as we prepare for the ultimate celebration of love on February 14th also known as Valentine's Day. Cupid's on full duty and love is in the air as romance surrounds us. Shouts of 'Happy Valentine's Day!' can be heard by young and old but, really who is St. Valentine?
The tale behind the saint of love is often confused between two St. Valentines. In fact, there were at least a dozen St. Valentines between the third and eighth centuries. The popular name Valentine derived from the latin word 'Valentinus,' meaning strong, worth and powerful.
Legend has it that Emperor Claudius II did not approve of the strong attachment men had to their wives and families. He believed that married men weren't fully focused when they went off to war. He wanted to maintain a strong army so he decided to ban marriages and engagements. However, St. Valentine continued to secretly wed Christian couples and aided Christians being persecuted by Claudius.
When Claudius found out about Valentine's actions he immediately dragged him off to prison and ordered for him to be put to death. Refusing to denounce his faith, St.Valentine was beaten, stoned and decapitated on February 14th around 270 A.D..
While it is still unclear how the saint's name became connected to celebrating romance there are several theories that follow. Historians credit English poet Geoffrey Chaucer for Valentine's Day, who wrote a poem titled Parliament of Fowls, around 1375. In his poem Chaucer describes birds coming together as a pair on February 14th. He writes “You know that on Saint Valentine's day, By my statute and through my governance, You come to choose,” as he explains how nature sets it's course by allowing these two birds to come together every year on that same day.
Prior to Chaucer's poem there had been no other mention of St. Valentine's day and it's connection to love. However, it isn't too ironic that St. Valentine day would be used to celebrate a day of romance. St. Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriages and other spiritual responsibilities such as love, traveling, and beekeeping.
Another tale of St. Valentine is, while imprisoned he healed a fellow jailer's blind daughter and on the day of his execution, he left a note signed to her, Your Valentine. Although this is not the most romantic reasoning, St. Valentine may have started the trend of cards and boxes of chocolate having 'Your Valentine' stamped on them.
Valentine's Day is celebrated several times a year in various parts of the world. St. Valentine's skull is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics of his can be found at several churches across Europe.