Will the Real Valentine Please Step Forward?
In part 1 of my valentine’s post, we took a look at the possible origins of St. Valentine’s Day. Today, I’d like to talk about the man himself. Before that can be done, we first must determine who might the real Valentine be.
Surprisingly, researching Saint Valentine, the man, is pretty confusing. Did you know there are around a dozen Valentines listed on the Roman Catholic Roster of Saints? How do we know which one is honored on St Valentine’s Day? Or could it be that we actually honor more than one? Read on as I try to unravel this conundrum.
In Latin, Valentinus means strong, healthy, powerful, or worthy. I imagine that’s why it was such a popular name between the second and eighth centuries A.D.
The Valentines We Know
There was a Pope Valentine in 827 A.D. Very little is known about him, but here’s what I uncovered. He was born into an upper-class Roman family. Pope Paschal I thought highly of him, so he promoted him to the archdeacon. Later, he was elected pope before he was even ordained as a priest (It was true then too, I guess….It’s who you know, not what you know). He only served for around 40 days and died on October 10, 827 AD. I found no record of his birtdate.
He was never dubbed a saint either.
The very first St. Valentine is said to have been murdered in Africa. I cannot find any information other than he and a couple of dozen soldiers were murdered there during the third century.
He is most definitely not considered the real Valentine.
According to Britannica.com, the Valentine we celebrate was one or possibly two other Christian martyrs who died on February 14th in different years. This was during the third century as well but in Rome between the years 268-270.
Some say the real Saint Valentine was a doctor and a Roman priest. And that Marcus Aurelius Claudius ‘Gothicus’ aka Claudius II imprisoned him for marrying Christians that were persecuted. During his imprisonment, Claudius was merciful. That is until Valentine tried to convert him to Christianity. That was his downfall. That’s when Claudius condemned him to death.
While imprisoned, it’s said he cured his jailer’s daughter of blindness. Supposedly he wrote a note to her on the evening before his death, signing it From your Valentine.
Italian’s Say – No – The Real Valentine is the Bishop of Terni
Though, Italians have different versions of events. The constants are that the real St. Valentine was the bishop of Terni, and his remains were taken back to Terni. One inconsistency is that Claudius II or Placidus, the magistrate of Rome had him killed. The other is how his body was returned to Terni. The larger dilemma is when it all took place, as you will learn below.
So, Who Was the Bishop of Terni?
Valentino was born an aristocrat in Terni, Umbria, Italy in 176 A.D. He converted to Christianity at the age of 21 and became the very first bishop in the province of Terni. He died at 97 years old while in Rome on February 14th in 273 A.D.
Did Britannica.com Get It Wrong?
Assuming the date is correct, Lucius Domitius Aurelianus was the Emperor at that time. I found no record of a Placidus as prefect. However, there is a gap in the service of Flavius Antiochianus for that period.
Maybe he was just filling in. Or maybe it’s because there was no official prefect during that time. I haven’t found that answer yet.
Italian Legends Vary
It’s tough to find real facts, but here’s a list of legends I found on Italy Heritage about the man who became the saint.
Valentino offered a rose to a couple who were quarreling. He told them to hold it and love each other as if they only had one heart. They had to be still or be pricked by the thorns. After a time, the couple found Valentino and asked him to marry them.
Valentino inspired love in the couple by making pairs of pigeons fly affectionately around them. Some people say this is where the expression “lovebirds” came from.
Apollonius, Proculus, and Ephebus were young Athenians. They were in Rome at the house of Craton, a speaker, to study Latin. Craton’s son had a spine, so curved that his head aligned with his knees. One of Craton’s friends told him that his brother suffered the same ailment and Valentino cured him. Valentino goes to Rome. First, the group promises to convert. Then he cures the boy. In the group was the son of Rome’s prefect (magistrate), Placidus. He reports Valentino. Later, they arrest, beat, and finally beheaded him.
A Roman soldier named Sabinus, and a young Christian woman, named Serapia loved each other very much. They wanted to marry but, being illegal for Roman soldiers, Serapia’s parents were against their marriage. Serapia became very ill, and Sabinus didn’t want to be separated from her. He asked Valentino to come to the girl’s bedside to marry them. Valentino first baptized Sabinus and then united the two in marriage. Soon after the two died together.
Now that one’s what I call love, how romantic! Could this be the real St. Valentine?
It wasn’t until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius I marked February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day to honor martyrdom.
One man or two? Which version is true? I’m still not sure. Either way, Christian persecution by an evil empire caused their deaths. Not just Valentines’ either, many others as well.
The truth is, death for all persecuted Christians was a brutal one. The sentences they received? Stoning, clubbing, and eventually beheading them all, simply because their beliefs were different.
How sad, and still today, we drive each other apart, not only regarding Christianity but as human beings. Imagine the great things we could accomplish by working together. Working for the good of all and not just those we agree with!
Thanks for reading. Please let me know your thoughts. Look out for part 3, it’s titled St. Valentine’s Burial Site Uncovered.
If you missed part 1, catch up here
Love is many things. It’s respect, generosity, selflessness, love is delicate, allowing, genuine and caring. Love is spending your life with your best friend.
My Love is – “Happy Valentine’s Day Coupon Book” can add enough love in the form of appreciation, respect, and consideration to last the whole year long. All for less than most Hallmark cards!