7 Things You Didn’t Know about St. Valentine’s Day

1. The Romans Might Have Been the first. 

In Ancient Rome, the festival of Lupercalia was from February 13th to 15th to celebrate the start of spring and the fertility of the earth. It was in 494AD that Pope St. Gelasius I abolished this pagan festival and replaced it with a Feast of Purification. Which historians believe was centered around St. Valentine.

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2. Valentines Day Originally Had More To Do With Death Than Love. 

Valentines day in fact originated as a liturgical Christian celebration commemorating the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. The popular saint was imprisoned and then killed for performing weddings of soldiers who were forbidden to marry under a Christian service. According to legend, before his execution he wrote a letter to his jailer’s daughter who he had healed and signed it “Your Valentine.”

3. In all, there are about a dozen St. Valentines, plus a pope.

The saint we celebrate on Valentine’s Day is known officially as St. Valentine of Rome in order to differentiate him from the dozen or so other Valentines on the list. Because “Valentinus”—from the Latin word for worthy, strong or powerful—was a popular name between the second and eighth centuries A.D., several martyrs over the centuries have carried this name. The official Catholic roster of saints shows about a dozen who were named Valentine or some variation thereof. The most recently beatified Valentine is St. Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Spaniard of the Dominican order who traveled to Vietnam, where he served as bishop until his beheading in 1861. Blessed Pope John Paul II canonized Berrio-Ochoa in 1988. There was even a Pope Valentine, though little is known about him except that he served a mere 40 days as Vicar of Christ around A.D. 827.

4. You can find Valentine’s skull in Rome.

The flower-adorned skull of St. Valentine is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In the early 1800s, the excavation of a catacomb near Rome yielded skeletal remains and other relics now associated with St. Valentine. As is customary, these bits and pieces of the late saint’s body have subsequently been distributed to reliquaries around the world. You’ll find other bits of St. Valentine’s skeleton on display in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, England and France.

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5. An English Poet Made It Romantic. 

It was medieval English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who first created a strong association between St. Valentine’s Day and romance. In 1381, Chaucer wrote a poem in honor of the marriage of King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” This is the first recorded association between Valentine’s day and love or romance. The poem is called The parlement of foules [The Parliament of Fowls].

6. A French Court Made It Popular. 

Leave it to the French. In 15th century Paris, princess Isabel of Bavaria apparently established a “High Court of Love.” It was founded on January 6th, the festivity of a Bavarian Saint Valentin. The court dealtplayfully with romances, relationships and love.  Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading. This the first time that the romantic associations with the festival became widely popularized.

7. St. Valentine May be the Combination of a few Men

“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.”

Taken Directly from the Catholic Encyclopedia 

Bonus: A Message from the Pope

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