Why is Saint Valentine the patron saint of lovers?

Why is Saint Valentine the patron saint of lovers?

Discover the story of the man who gave his name to the holiday of Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14.

On February 14, it is customary for lovers to celebrate their Valentine’s Day by exchanging gifts, sweet words, or even romantic dinners. The name of the holiday, Valentine’s Day, is linked to the story of Valentine of Terni, a priest and bishop who lived in the 3rd century in Ternia, Italy, in the Umbria region.

Prohibited marriages at the origin of the celebration

Popular accounts of the time say that Roman Emperor Claudius II the Gothic – who reigned from 268 to 270 – forbade his soldiers from marrying. He imposed this rule so that his men would not be distracted and their determination in battle would not weaken. Because of this ban, some turned to Valentin de Terni to secretly celebrate their union. When the emperor learned of this enterprise, he had the priest arrested.

In prison, Valentin was entrusted to the supervision of the prefect Asterius, whose daughter was blind. The story goes that Valentin fell in love with the young girl to the point that he restored her sight. Shocked by this miracle, Asterius and his entire family converted to Christianity.

Martyrized for his miraculous and loving gesture

Doubly furious, Emperor Claudius II ordered the death of Valentin de Terni. The unfortunate man was executed on February 14, 269. It is said that before being beheaded, he sent a letter to his beloved signed “Your Valentine”. Valentine’s Day would thus be based on the tragic destiny of Valentin de Terni. But also on his act of kindness and defiance motivated by love. He was designated patron saint of lovers by Pope Alexander VI in 1496.

A saint commemorated in Italy

His bones rest in Terni where a basilica was built in the 4th century. Today, it is possible to visit the building, rebuilt in the 17th century after Pope Paul V had excavations undertaken to find relics of the martyr. The San Valentino Basilica is now a major place of pilgrimage, especially on February 14.

When does Valentine’s Day appear in society?

Celebrating Valentine’s Day was not immediate after the death of Valentin de Terni. The tradition spread a few centuries later. Historians suppose that the festival was established by Pope Gelasius I in the 5th century to put an end to Lupercalia: a pagan tradition from ancient Rome during which populations celebrated fertility in February, through the sacrifice of animals.

From the 14th century, the British literature of Geoffrey Chaucer took up the story of Saint Valentine and made his celebration a popular event. In 1380, the author composed the poem The Parliament of Birds,, in which February 14 represents the first day of the mating season among birds.

The first Valentine’s Day card is also Anglo-Saxon! It would have been sent by Charles, Duke of Orléans, then prisoner of Henry V of England after his defeat at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Remaining captive for 25 years in the Tower of London, in 1440 he wrote a map to his beloved, Princess de Condé Marie de Clèves. It mentions Valentine’s Day. This precious message is kept at the British Museum in London.

Both festive and commercial, Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated around the world today. Its Christian roots invite everyone to refocus on the essential, recalling the importance of love.

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