According to the Catholic Church, there were several saints in the ancient world called Valentine. The Saint Valentine with whom we associate Valentine's Day was a Catholic priest who lived in the 3rd Century in Rome. At this time Rome was the most powerful nation in the world and was ruled by Emperor Claudius II. Claudius and most Romans were pagans, but more and more citizens were converting to Christianity, much to the dismay of the Emperor.
The various legends of St Valentine
There are several legends associated with St Valentine and how he came to be sainted. One story says that Valentine was called before Emperor Claudius and refused to give up his Christianity to become a pagan. Another story is that Valentine was secretly marrying Christian couples, a practice which had been outlawed by the Emperor.
Whatever the reason, Saint Valentine was executed on 14 February in the year 270. It is said that prior to his execution, St Valentine had cured the blindness of his jailor's daughter and his final act was to write her a love message signed ‘from your valentine'.
St Valentine is established as a Saint
Whatever the legends, we can be certain that St Valentine did exist as archaeologists have uncovered a Roman church dedicated to him. St Valentine is on the Catholic Church's official list of saints, although because of the uncertainty about who St Valentine really was, he no longer appears on the General Catholic Calendar of Saints.
Where is St Valentine Buried?
St Valentine is the patron of love, young people and happy marriages. Legend has it that Valentine's body was buried just north of Rome, however there are many places around the world which claim to have St Valentine's relics. His skull is on display in Rome and in Dublin; a casket is said to contain holy relics of the saint. At this church each year on 14 February, a special mass is held dedicated to young people and all those in love. Pictures of St Valentine generally show him as a kindly figure, often surrounded by birds and roses.
14 February - Saint Valentine's Feast Day
St Valentine's official feast day was first held on 14 February in the year 496. At the time this feast day was chosen to replace a pagan practice which the Christian Church was trying to stamp out. It wasn't until the Middle Ages that St Valentine was connected with courtly love. Poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer built on the legends surrounding St Valentine and began the tradition of associating Saint Valentine with romantic love that we celebrate today.
The High Court of Love
During medieval times, a High Court of Love was established in Paris on Saint Valentine's Day. Judges were chosen by women, depending on their ability to recite poetry. These judges dealt with issues around marriage contracts and with acts of violence against women.
St Valentine the Patron Saint of Love
Representing love, young people and happy marriages, St Valentine's Day became the day for exchanging love messages. The earliest known love notes were written on handmade cards, often with extravagant verses of poetry describing how much the recipient was loved. These beautiful creations were elaborately decorated with pictures, lace and ribbons and were treasured items kept for many years.
Over time, the tradition of sending cards became more widespread as postage services and printing improved. Books were published about how to write sentimental poetry to your lover for Valentine's Day. Cards were often sent anonymously, giving the recipient the thrill of guessing the identity of the sender. Poems and simple gifts such as flowers were also sent, and today flowers are the most popular of St Valentine gifts.
Saint Valentine in the 21st Century
Modern day Saint Valentine traditions are similar to those in the past, although the tradition has grown to include spending special time with loved ones. It is expected that couples will do something together on Valentine's Day, such as have a romantic dinner. The early custom of associating Saint Valentine with a rose has survived today, with a single red rose being identified with love and romance.
Prayers are still said to St Valentine as the patron saint of love. Catholics offer prayers and thanks for loving families and friends and couples ask for the saint's blessing of their lives together.
Today St Valentine's Day is second only to Christmas for the large numbers of cards exchanged and it is a multi-million dollar business. From humble beginnings, St Valentine is featured in films, songs and literature and today can even be found on Facebook.
Search Roses Only today to find the perfect St Valentine's Day gift for your loved one. Send a single red rose, arrangement of flowers or champagne and chocolate gift hamper to delight your valentine.