There were, probably, two St. Valentines – both Christians living in Rome during the third century AD. We know virtually nothing about either one, but both seem to have been beheaded as martyrs of the faith their legends have, over time, merged.
St. Valentine’s Day (February 14) has long been associated with love and lovers, however, and there is debate and discussion about these origins. Traditionally, St. Valentine was said to have performed secret marriages for the emperor’s soldiers. The Emperor believed that unmarried men made superior soldiers and had outlawed marriage amongst his men. This story, however, has been widely questioned. Some say the association is related to the Roman feast of Lupercalia. Others discount that theory.
The Skull of St. Valentine (Santa Maria in Cosmedin) Photo by Br Lawrence Lew, OP .Despite this historical ambiguity, February 14 has been associated with coupling for centuries, and relics of St. Valentine can be found in churches throughout Europe including at Santa Maria in Cosmedin (the church in Rome best known for housing the Mouth of Truth).
If you are in Rome for St. Valentine’s Day, make your way to Viale Maresciallo Pilsudski and the remains of the church of San Valentino. The church sits on the site of a 2nd century pagan cemetery.
View Larger Map
Early Christian churches often were built at the site of martyrs’ graves. Pilgrims would flock to the graves to pay homage to the dead, and eventually memorials were built and then churches. Christians were buried in the cemetery from the 4th to the 6th centuries, and a catacomb was cut into the hillside on the site. Eventually a church was built which covered part of the cemetery and honored St. Valentine.
The church fell into ruin, and now it is only open one day each year: St. Valentine’s Day. A mass is said for the saint who has become the patron saint of couples, bee keepers, and happy marriages (sadly, there is not yet a patron saint of bloggers). The mass is generally followed by brief tours of the catacombs which are only open one each year.
Now I am feeling a little mushy, so...
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
And a special St. Valentine's greeting to my readers from DeliciousBaby.com's Photo Friday . Hugs and Kisses!