Everyone has heard about Saint Valentine. He’s the patron saint of lovers, and on his day people send anonymous cards or presents to the one they love.
But who was Saint Valentine?
Well, there was a priest named Valentine who lived in Rome in the third century. He was put in prison because he helped some Christians who were going to be executed by a cruel emperor named Claudius. While Valentine was in prison, he healed the chief warder’s daughter, who was blind, and the warder and all his family became Christians.
When Emperor Claudius heard this, he said that Valentine should be executed. And so, on February 14 in the year 269, Valentine was clubbed to death. Then his head was chopped off, just to make sure he was dead.
In the same year, another man named Valentine, who was the bishop of Terni (about sixty miles from Rome), was also put to death by Emperor Claudius for being a Christian.
Neither saint seems to have anything to do with young lovers. So where do the traditions come from? Some say it is because on this day of the year (in the northern hemisphere) birds pair up and start mating.
Others say the day is special for lovers because at that time of year there had been a pagan Roman festival named Lupercalia, when young men took part in a kind of lottery to find a partner. But Lupercalia has nothing to do with either Saint Valentine!
Image credit: Saint Valentine Kneeling by David Teniers III, 17th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia.