Saint Valentine's Day, commonly known as Valentine's Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it remains a working day in most of them.
St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote 'from your Valentine' as a farewell to her.Today, Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion,as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine's Day, albeit on July 6th and July 30th, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni).
The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as 'valentines'). Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland
Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae). Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. The flower crowned skull of St Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics are found in the Basilica of Santa Prassede, also in Rome, as well as at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.
Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino).
The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him. Saint Valentine's head was preserved in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester and venerated.
February 14 is celebrated as St Valentine's Day in various Christian denominations; it has, for example, the rank of 'commemoration' in the calendar of saints in the Anglican Communion. In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church.However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: 'Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.' The feast day is still celebrated in Balzan (Malta) where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, and also throughout the world by Traditionalist Catholics who follow the older, pre-Second Vatican Council calendar. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine's Day is celebrated on July 6th, in which Saint Valentine, the Roman presbyter, is honoured; furthermore, the Eastern Orthodox Church obsesrves the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30th.
Saint Valentine of Terni and his disciples
Bishop Demetri of the Orthodox Research Institute, in a keynote address, states that 'St. Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D, a time when the church was enduring great persecution. His ministry was to help the Christians to escape this persecution, and to provide them the sacraments, such as marriage, which was outlawed by the Roman Empire at that time.' Contemporary records of Saint Valentine were most probably destroyed during the Diocletianic Persecution on early 4th century. In the 5th or 6th century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae published an invented story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome, probably by borrowing tortures that happened to other saints, as it was usually made in the literature of that period. It states that St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer's daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. In addition to this, Saint Valentine is said to have performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. According to legend, in order to 'remind them of God's love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians,' Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on Saint Valentine's Day. A later Passio repeated the legend, adding that Pope Julius I built a church over his sepulcre (it's a confusion with a 4th century tribune called Valentino who donated land to build a church at a time when Julius was a Pope). The legend was picked up as fact by later martyrologies, starting by Bede's martyrology in the 8th century. It was repeated in the 13th century, in Legenda Aurea. The book expounded briefly the Early Medieval acta of several Saint Valentines, and this legend was assigned to the Valentine under 14 February.
There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, which according to Henry Ansgar Kelly, was added centuries later, and widely repeated. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first 'valentine' card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as 'Your Valentine.' This expression 'From your Valentine' is still used to this day. This legend has been published by both American Greetings and The History Channel. John Foxe, an English historian, as well as the Order of Carmelites, state that Saint Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome, located near the cemetery of St Hippolytus. This order says that according to legend, 'Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.