The Story Behind St Valentine

The Story Behind St Valentine … By Leena Patel


Valentine’s Day approaches with much excitement in our contemporary celebratory approaches; planning flowers, chocolates and romantic gestures with unique gifts. A fabulous opportunity to take advantage of such a well known day; to express the reflection of a deep love from within and wanting, needing to bestow it upon the one.

Whatever occurs in one’s relationship both good or bad, manipulating a day everyone knows it to be related to the circulatory system of love – in terms of modernity, this day has become a much loved occasion to look forward to no matter what the root of the reason is.


Question: Have you ever considered exactly how Valentine’s Day tripped into our lives and entices us each year?


The most alluring reality is the true journey supporting the fascination of St Valentine’s Day which effectively originates from a tribute to a Catholic Bishop, St Valentine. To enrich a fuller understanding we are required to step back to as early as 4th Century B.C. history. The earliest origin of Romans fully celebrating the festival of Lupercalia, known as Young Man’s Rite of Passage to the God Lupercus fell on the 15th February; claiming Lupercalia celebrated on the Roman calendar ‘the coming of Spring’ season. The annual festival is said to be intended for assurance of gaining fertility for the people, fields and their flocks.


A box would be created for young, adult women to place their names into it, in turn; names were randomly to be drawn by adolescent men. The objective of this was simply to assign a woman companion, as a sexual partner for the year’s duration, which would follow the staging of another lottery draw. Early Church Fathers eventually sought to end such a crude practice however it took eight hundred years before this took effect.


The Church searched for an appropriate patron saint of love to replace the pagan God Lupercus. Conclusively, they found St Valentine to be the most suitable choice, who sadly had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius in the year 270 A.D. In reference to the Church tradition, St Valentine was a priest not far from Rome. It was a time when the Roman Emperor – Claudius II released an official decree which forbade marriage. Claudius concluded soldiers that married resulted in poor workers, being emotionally attached to their families, and thus, his empire was completely banned from marriage.


Bishop Valentine witnessed the tragic trauma of young lovers; he persuaded them to meet with him in secrecy, kindly helping them by joining the couples in the sacrament of matrimony. Inevitably, Claudius discovered this ‘friend of lovers’, seeing it as a betrayal, and had Valentine thrown into jail and condemned him to death.


The time Valentine spent in the prison was not easy; however, as he awaited his much dreaded condemned fate, he managed to befriend the jailer. The jailer, Asterius, who had a blind daughter found no difficulty in befriending the kind priest; he would bring messages and food to him without fail. Eventually, Valentine met Asterius’ daughter through the jailer’s request of healing her. Valentine’s faith was immovable and his strength of devotion miraculously restored Asterius’ daughter’s eyesight. Furthermore, he became responsible for converting the two to Christianity. What resulted from this moving event – Valentine fell deeply in love with his friend’s daughter.


Some time past and Claudius ordered an appearance with the priest. There was admiration towards the priest’s display of dignity and his immovable commitment to Christianity. Somehow, the Emperor wished to save this impressive young man before him; he tried persuading him to convert to paganism so that the execution could be forfeited. Instead, Valentine turned the tables around and effectively tried manipulating Claudius into converting, all to no avail. Since neither party succumbed to any conversion of their religion, the execution day finally arrived.

On this dark impending occasion, the priest requested a pen and paper from his jailor. With a heavy heart, signing a farewell message to Asterius’ daughter, he completed the letter with “From Your Valentine”. . . On the 24th February, 270 Anno Domini, he was cruelly stoned and beheaded.


As an outcome of the Church Father’s search of a suitable replacement of the Pagan festival, Lupercalia – Valentine became a Patron Saint, the spiritual overseer of the annual festival. Whilst this lottery for women was banned by the church, it transformed the mid-February holiday to commemorating St Valentine; instead young Romans offered women of their admiration handwritten words of affection and greetings on the 14th February. Eventually, any greetings were completed with signing of St Valentine’s name. One of the earliest founded letters sent to his wife was sent in year 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. At the time, Charles had been imprisoned in the Tower of London. This very card is held in preservation at the British Museum.


Another symbol recognised on Valentine’s Day is that of Cupid, who irresistibly became associated since he was the known son of Venus, the Roman God of Love and beauty. There are clear visual interpretations of Cupid appearing on Valentine cards. The story of Cupid is another journey, however it is clear to now visualise the supportive facts of St Valentine in contemporary perspectives. The story behind St Valentine is indeed a mesmerising one. . . Happy Valentine’s Day . . . God Bless.