On February 14th, we celebrate Valentine’s Day in honor of Saint Valentine, the patron Saint of love. We pine over love, go on dates, and buy flowers and overpriced chocolates that go on sale the next day. However, we give very little thought to the Saint himself. Who was he? What do we know about him?
Not much. Information about Saint Valentine’s life is mixed, murky, and many are unsure which stories are true or false. It is entirely possible that stories attributed to him are actually for two separate people instead of one individual. While we can confidently say that he “was martyred and then buried [… in] the north of Rome,” according to catholic.org, the rest is a mystery.
One common story is that a judge presented his daughter to Saint Valentine and demanded that he restore her sight. When Saint Valentine did, the judge converted his entire family to Christianity. Another common story is that he would secretly perform marriage ceremonies to prevent the men from being carried off to war. Finally, one of the most popular stories is that he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Saint Valentine sent her what is considered to be the first “valentine” greeting. However, nobody knows for sure.
In any case, it is fully possible that his connection to romance was an accident. A famous medieval English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, might have created Valentine’s connection to romantic love. He wrote a poem called “Parliament of Foules” in the 14th century. In within the poem, he refers to Saint Valentine’s Day as the day where birds and humans find their mate. Before this, there are no records of Saint Valentine’s Day being celebrated as the day of love.
While he is best known for being the patron saint of lovers, he is also the patron saint of the plague, epilepsy, and beekeepers. In any case, we celebrate romantic love in his honor today. Perhaps, that is enough.
Written by Claudia Piwowarczyk
“6 Surprising Facts About St. Valentine” by Elizabeth Hanes of History.com
“History of Valentine’s Day” by History.com Editors
“Saint Valentine” by the Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
“St. Valentine” By Catholic.org
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