St Valentine’s Day or the Feast of St Valentine is celebrated annually on 14th February.

It is a celebration of love and affection.

But who was St Valentine? Unsurprisingly he is the patron saint of lovers but did you know that he is also the patron saint of epileptics and beekeepers? I certainly didn’t!

There are many accounts of him so I can’t vouch for the veracity of any of them. Some account say he was a Roman priest and physician who became a martyr during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Claudius Gothics (who was known as Claudius the cruel, so not a nice man) about 270 A. D. on 14th February.

Claudius was struggling to maintain a strong army and he thought the reason Roman men were unwilling to join up was their strong attachment to their wives and families

To solve this problem, the Emperor banned all marriages and engagements in Rome.  Valentine defied this decree and continued to marry young lovers in secret. When his actions were discovered he was ordered to be put to death.

Legend has it that while in jail, Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter and signed it ‘from your Valentine.

In truth, the exact origins and identity of St Valentine are unclear. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there were at least 3 St Valentines all put to death on 14th February on different years.

Interestingly there is some evidence that the Medieval English Poet Geoffrey Chaucer may have invented Valentine’s Day. This is because there is no record of celebrations on this day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375.

Legends also vary on how his name became connected with romance. As often happens it may be that the date of his death has become mixed with a Pagan festival.  The feast of Lupercalia, a pagan feast of love occurred in February. On these occasions, the names of young women were placed in a box and men would draw out names.  On 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the feast of Lupercalia and declared that henceforth February 14th should be celebrated as St Valentine’s Day.

Gradually, February 14th became a date for exchanging love messages, poems and gifts.

I for one will be wishing my hubby Happy feast of Lupercalia because that sounds a lot more descriptive of what we do (minus the animal sacrifice)



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