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Valentines Day History

valentine image

Every February 14, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between the loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

Saint Valentine was said to have demonstrated courage and valor in helping Christian martyrs being persecuted under Emperor Claudius II in Rome, during a time when giving any kind of aid to Christians was considered a crime. Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned for this crime. He was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs, stoned and finally beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. After his death, this gate was known as Porta Valentini, later being renamed Porta Popolo.


There is a legend that says while awaiting his execution, he befriended his jailer's blind daughter whose sight he restored to her. According to Alfonso Villiegas, in his book "Lives of Saints" the jailer was Asterios, one of the Emperor's lieutenants. He and his family were converted to Christianity by St. Valentine, and they were condemned to death by Claudius II. Furthermore, according to legend, on the eve of Valentinus' death, he wrote a farewell message to the jailer's daughter and signed it. This is how Valentines Day evolved.

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