7 Things You May Not Know About St. Valentine

7 Things You May Not Know About St. Valentine

You know the Valentine's Day traditions: giving candy, roses, and greeting cards.  But how much do you know about St. Valentine, the man who inspired this day celebrating love? While details about his life are hard to confirm, discover a few surprising facts about the saint (or saints) behind the celebrations.

  • Guideposts: St. Valentine, as rendered in stained glass

    There have been a dozen or more St. Valentines over the centuries, and there is some debate about which one inspired the holiday we know today. There was even a Pope Valentine, who served for just over a month in A.D. 827.

  • Guideposts: St. Valentine

    There are two accounts of St. Valentines who are likely to have inspired the holiday. One says he was a temple priest in Rome who was ordered beaten, stoned and beheaded by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples to wed at a time when Roman law forbade young people from marrying. Another says he was the Bishop of Terni (though in that account he was also beheaded near Rome by Claudius). Both accounts may be true. It's thought by some that there were two priests of that name at the time.

    A third Saint Valentine, who was martyred in Africa, lived at around the same time, but virtually nothing is known about him.

  • Guideposts: A portrait of Pope Gelasius I

    Valentine's feast day was established on February 14 in 496 A.D. by Pope Gelasius I. The day did not then have a romantic connotation.

  • Guideposts: St. Valentine

    Though Valentine is most closely associated today with love and romance (he's the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriage, love, and lovers), he is also the patron saint of bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, the plague, travellers, and young people.

  • Guideposts: A pair of Valentine's Day cards from the Victorian era

    Legend has it that on the day of his execution, St. Valentine wrote a note to his jailer's daughter, whom he'd healed of blindness. He is said to have signed the note, "from your Valentine," which some say led to the idea of a man appealing to a woman's heart by asking to be her valentine.

  • Guideposts: St. Valentine performs the wedding of a young couple who are clasping a rose, as depicted in stained glass in the Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni, Italy

    In artistic depictions of St. Valentine, he is frequently accompanied by roses and birds.

     

  • Guideposts: A reliquary of Saint Valentine in the form of a bust.

    Enough confusion still exists around the events of St. Valentine's life that beginning in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church omitted him from the Catholic calendar of saints for universal veneration.  His name still appears on the Church's list of officially recognized saints for local veneration, and he's still beloved by many.

    Read More: 8 Things You Probably Didn't Know About St. Patrick

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