Who Was St. Valentine?


Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine’s Day — and its patron saint — is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
A picture of Cupid.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure.

…read the remainder of this article here, including some interesting video clips.


Author: nancybond

A writer, photographer, naturalist from small town Nova Scotia, Canada.

13 thoughts on “Who Was St. Valentine?”

  1. I remember the elementary classroom Valentine’s Day parties. Well, memory of them is not vivid, but those cute little cards stand out. I wonder if they still do that today?

    Hi TC – so nice to have your visit. Oh yes, I’m pretty sure they still do the Valentine exchange and all in schools today. My kids did. I remember when we were that age, everyone brought a brown paper bag to school and decorated it with hearts and paper doilies. :-) It was so exciting to see what Valentines you’d get. Nice memory.

  2. Happy St. Valentine’s Day, Nancy! A thoughtful post … growing up in Catholic Schools, I remember these stories and the legend of ‘The Patron Saint of Greetings’ well. Thank you for the thoughtful reminder of this lovely day.

    You’re welcome…and I hope you and yours have a very happy Valentine’s Day. :)

  3. Few things can be more fitting than a a picture of a red rose for a Valentines day post. I wonder if we will ever know which of the St. valentines this day is named after? It can however be a sad day for those who have lost the love of their life. And woe to the man who forgets to buy his wife flowers this day!

  4. I haven’t ever thought of the origins of Valentines Day before Nancy but I kind of like the last theory. It makes sense and explains the “from your Valentine” sentiment. I still really enjoy sending Valentines to the people I care about ~ I hope you have a Happy Valentines Day too!

  5. Nancy, you are doing a good job of making me a more informed person. I appreciate the research that you do, and then the ‘easy read’ packaging. The lovely photos help, I think. :)

  6. Nancy,
    Thanks for this interesting “refresher” post on St. Valentine. Very crisp and nice pic of the red rose!

    Hope you and your loved ones have a very Happy Valentine’s Day.

    Jon at Mississippi Garden

  7. Happy Valentine’s day! Actually the part of St.Valentine being in love with the jailer’s daughter (or whoever she was) is false. Technically, the whole thing is false. It’s been taught everywhere, including religious schools…But the actual Catholic teaching of St.Valentine, has to do with 3 St.Valentines who were martyred. Nothing much is known except that one was a priest, another a bishop, adn the other was martyred in Africa along with others. Their feastdays are on Feb.14. Valentine’s Day came to be known as it is today through literature that came from the Middle Ages. “The popular customs connected with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on February 14, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer’s “Parliament of Foules” we read:

    For this was on Seynt Valentyne’s day Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate. ”

    For more info: http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Valentine%2C_Saint

    Hope this helps! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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