Day was declared to be on February 14th in 496 by Pope Gelasius I. There are several St Valentines
commemorated in churches of different traditions. The main contenders in Roman and Western Churches are either,
a Roman priest martyred on the Flaminian Way, supposedly under Claudius, or, a bishop of Terni who was martyred
in Rome, but whose relics were translated to Terni. Some Jesuit scholars state that they are one and the same.
Neither of them seems to have any clear connection with lovers or courting couples. The reason for this famous
patronage is that birds are supposed to pair on February 14th, a belief at least as old as Chaucer (14th C),
just as the custom of choosing and calling oneself a Valentine is as old as the Paston Letters (15th C). On the
other hand, some authorities see the custom of choosing a partner on St Valentine’s Day as a survival of
elements of the Roman Lupercalia festival, which took place in the middle of February.
Whatever the reason,
the connection of lovers with St Valentine, with all its consequences for the printing and retailing industries,
is one of the less likely results of the cult of the Roman martyrs.
No churches in
England seem to be dedicated
to Valentine, but from 1835 his relics are claimed by the Carmelite church in Dublin.
Painting shown: St. Valentine Heals the Epileptics and Rebukes the Worshippers of False Gods
Artist: Bartholomaus Zeitblom c.1450 – c.1519
Copyright © St Mary's Parochial Church Council 2010-2011