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St. Valentine

Three different Saint Valentines are mentioned in the Catholic book of martyrs under the date of 14th February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem to have suffered in the second half of the third century. We know very little about the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions.

In the days of William Malmesbury, what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome, was then known as the Gate of St. Valentine. The name probably came from a small church near by which had been dedicated to the two Saints.

Valentines Day

St. Valentine lived in the turbulent time of the 2nd century AD and was a Priest in the days of Emperor Claudius II. The church was suffering terrible persecution, and Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns.

Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome and issued an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers, because they had no one waiting for them if they returned home.

Immorality was ripe in Rome and so the church encouraged people to marry and continue the sacred covenant between man and woman. Many people were drawn to the Christian faith and wanted to show loyalty to their bride to be, and so were married.

St Valentine was to only too happy to comply with his flock's desires and so secretly married them regardless of the edict.

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the command of Emperor Claudius the Second. There are many legends surrounding Valentine's actions while in prison.

Asterius who was one of his judges had a blind daughter. The story goes that Valentine prayed with her and she was healed. As a result Asterius became a Christian.

In 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution of a beating with clubs, stoning, and finally decapitation, all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius' daughter saying ‘from your Valentine’. Hence the idea of signing valentines cards ‘from your valentine’ and that St Valentine is now known as the patron saint of lovers due to his resolve to marry them even in the face of death.

At the same time in February the people celebrated an ancient feast, to honour Lupercalia, a heathen god. Amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box and the men randomly picked them out, a bit like a lottery.

The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome tried to steer their flock away from the pagan element in these feasts by substituting the names of young women for those of the saints. So the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's Day for the celebration of this new feast.

In 496 AD Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honour St. Valentine.

Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. Sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers marked the date.

Whitefriars Street Church is one of three churches that claim to house the remains of St Valentine. Today, many people make the pilgrimage to the church to honour the courage and memory of this Christian saint who gave his life for something that he believed in. ‘Greater love has no man that he gives his life for his friends’ John 15:13.

John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life’.

What happened on the 14th February in History

  • In 1779 Captain James Cook, British Explorer, was murdered by natives in Hawaii.
  • In 1852 London's famous Great Ormond Street children's hospital accepted its first patient.
  • In 1929 the St Valentine’s Day’s Massacre took place in a Chicago, Illinois, America. Seven rivals of Al Capone's gang were gunned down.
  • In 1965 Sir Winston Churchill entered the British Charts with ‘The Voice of Churchill’ album.
  • In 1981 Billy Idol, a British pop star, launched his solo career after his group Generation X spilt up.
  • In 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's spiritual leader, condemned Salman Rushdie's award-winning novel ‘The Satanic Verses’. Salman receives various death threats and goes into hiding.
  • In 1989 Skyphone, the world's first satellite telephone service was launched on the British Airway’s flight from London to New York.
  • In 1991 the first all-female rap concert was held at Los Angeles Sports Arena.


    Cupid was a mischievous, winged child, whose arrows would pierce the hearts of his victims causing them to fall deeply in love. In ancient Greece he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite. To the Romans he was Cupid, and his mother Venus.

    Roses symbolize peace and war, love and forgiveness. White roses are for true love. Red roses are for passion. Yellow roses are for friendship. Black roses mean farewell.

    The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day possibly had their origin in a belief generally received in England and France during the 14th and 15th centuries which can been seen in both countries' literature. That on the 14th February, (half way through the second month of the year), the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read: For this was sent on Saint Valentine's day, when every foul comes there to choose his mate. (Translated into modern English)

    The day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and ideal for writing love letters and sending tokens of ones love.

    In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.

    Charles, duke of Orleans, sent the first true Valentine card in 1415 to his wife. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time.

    Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800's and now the date is much commercialised.

    In Wales, UK wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favourite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, ‘You unlock my heart!’ Even today most Welsh gift shops sell them.