Rumor: There were three Saint Valentines

Valentine’s Day can trace its origins to a trio of Catholic martyrs

CONFIRMED: At least three Saint Valentines are mentioned in Catholic martyrologies

Like Easter, Christmas and Halloween, Valentine’s Day has roots in Christianity -- particularly Catholicism. But few people realize the amount of confusion that exists over whom, exactly, Saint Valentine was. In fact, as noted on Catholic.org, Novareinna, and NewAdvent.org, at least three Saint Valentines are mentioned in official Catholic martyrologies, each of whom was celebrated on February 14 and could be the man who now inspires a day of dinner reservations, love notes and chocolate.

Saint Valentine: Priest of Rome

A priest from Rome is described in one version of the Valentine story as having helped other Christians to get married during the rule of Claudius “The Cruel.” Claudius was said to have prohibited all marriages in the city in order to recruit more men to the army (married men were seen as tougher to persuade into service), but Valentine and another eventual saint, Marius, conducted secret weddings. For his crimes Valentine was arrested, imprisoned and, while in prison,  may have communicated with supporters with small notes, which became known as “Valentines.” The future saint is also rumored to have fallen in love with a young woman who visited him and was miraculously cured of her blindness. After supposedly attempting to convert Claudius himself to Christianity, Valentine was beaten with clubs, stoned with rocks, then beheaded. 

Saint Valentine: Bishop of Interamna

The second Saint Valentine was said to be a bishop in the central-Italian town of Interamna, now known as Terni.  Placidus, the local ruler, arrested Valentine as part of a wider persecution against Christians and eventually had him tortured and beheaded, supposedly in secret so as not to induce riots from the populace who had great admiration for the bishop. His link to love stems from legends that he was the first priest to oversee a marriage between a Pagan and a Christian.

Saint Valentine: Martyr of Africa

There is very little information available concerning the final Saint Valentine, other than he lived in Africa and was persecuted and eventually executed along with several companions. Meanwhile, over at Afrik-News, writer Theophilus O’Donkor notes another African figure may have more to do with Valentine’s Day than any of the aforementioned saints. Pope Gelasius I is of African descent and, according to church teachings, fought against Paganism, eventually forbidding Lupercalia, the Feb. 15 pagan celebration of love, with Saint Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.

 

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