Who Was Saint Valentine?

Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint Valentine of Rome, a Catholic Saint. Really. Today is not about buying the most expensive gift possible (a $300 iPod?!? a GPS system??? roses that have been marked up 200% for this week only?!??). It’s not about being vile and offensive (listen up, radical feminists who have tried to steal our day with your disgusting “play”).

Today we remember a saint who was imprisoned for giving comfort to martyrs in prison. He was a priest, possibly a bishop. He worked a miracle for the jailer’s daughter, restoring her sight, and this action converted the jailer himself. Saint Valentine of Rome was a martyr himself; he was beaten and beheaded in the third century. [source: Patron Saint Index]

New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia says this about Saint Valentine:

At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14 February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William of Malmesbury’s time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighborhood. Of both these St. Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they are of relatively late date and of no historical value. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.

Catholic Online had this information:

The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.


The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in a The Nuremberg Chronicle, a great illustrated book printed in 1493. [Additional evidence that Valentine was a real person: archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.] Alongside a woodcut portrait of him, text states that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner — until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor — whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn’t do it, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate [circa 269].

There are other saints who share this day as their feast day, too. Two of them are ones Big Girl learned about in school last year, Saints Cyril and Methodius.

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