Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who was Saint Valentine?

What images does Valentine’s Day conjure for you? Red roses, chocolates, frilly love notes, candy hearts?  While some people love Valentine’s Day, others may dread the day; some even have deemed it “Single Awareness Day.” Whatever your opinion of Valentine’s Day, the romantic roots of the day might interest you.

Although there were people named Saint Valentine or Valentinus, the exact origin of Valentine’s Day is unclear. One story goes that Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century, serving under Emperor Claudius II. Claudius had decided that single men were better soldiers than married men and fathers, and therefore had outlawed marriage. Valentine recognized the absurdity of this decree, and continued to marry lovers in private. When Claudius discovered Valentine’s defilements, he was put to death and became a martyr.

The other legends have suggested that Valentine died trying to help Christians escape persecution and harsh prisons during Roman rule. Supposedly in one story, while Valentine was captured in prison, he wrote the first “valentine” to a young girl he loved. Before he died, it was discovered that he signed it, “from your Valentine”—this expression is still in use today.
Although St. Valentine’s story is steeped in legend, it is obvious that he was a figure associated with selfless and heroic acts, and had a reputation of being a romantic figure.

In the 5th century, Pop Gelasius declared February 14 Valentine’s Day. During the Middle Ages, St. Valentine became a very popular figure, and it was believed that February 14 was the beginning of the birds’ mating season. It was in the Middle Ages that people embraced Valentine’s Day and the month of February became one of love and romance.

You can read more about the origins of Valentine’s Day and its history on
Happy Valentine’s Day from TAMU Press!

--Madeline Loving