Valentine's Day: who is the one who gave his name to the feast of lovers

On February 14, we celebrate Valentine's Day. A celebration linked to the tragic fate of Valentin, from Terni (Italy), a priest who was beheaded.

On February 14, synonymous with Valentine's Day, all Valentines in the world are undoubtedly also entitled to their "Happy Valentine's Day" (even if we usually celebrate it the day before). While they are in no way linked to this day celebrated by couples (who wish).

There is one, on the other hand, to whom we owe this day. According to the summary of researchers published in 2017 in the journal Repertorio de Medicina y Cirugía, Valentine's Day is due to Valentin, a native of Terni (Italy), a bishop who lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and ended his life as a martyr.

A saint still celebrated today in the city of which he is the patron, Terni, and whose bones still rest near the Basilica of San Valentino.

Secret weddings

The story of Valentin (Valentino in Italian) is linked to the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II (or Claudius II the Gothic).

 According to accounts, Emperor Claudius II forbade Roman soldiers from marrying, on the grounds, he said, that marriage would "seriously diminish their efficiency, strength, and lack of mercy on the battlefield."

This was without counting a Catholic bishop (the famous Valentin, from Terni, known much later as “Saint Valentin”), who began to organize wedding ceremonies in secret.

 According to one of the legends surrounding him, this lover of roses and fragrant flowers offered them to engaged couples, wishing them a happy union.

Except that Claudius II, who was not really known for his great clemency (nor his love for flowers), ordered the arrest of Valentin and threw him in prison.

The story of a miracle

In prison, Valentin is under the vigilance of prefect Asterius, director of the penitentiary establishment. As the priest was also credited with alleged healing powers, he asks him to cure his blind-born daughter, Julia.

Valentin places his hands over Julia's eyes, prays to God, and a miracle… the girl regains her sight. By the way, Valentin fell in love with Julia…

According to legend, this is a revelation for Asterius. The jailer and his whole family then converted to Christianity. And he frees all the Christians locked up in his prison, including Valentin.

The problem, the story goes back to the ears of Claude II. Furious, he orders the decapitation of Valentin and Asterius. Even if the exact date is not confirmed precisely, they were probably executed on February 14, in 268, 269, 271, and even 273, the accounts diverge.

Detail which is important, according to legend, before his execution, Valentin would have written a farewell letter to his lover, Julia, daughter of Asterius, which he would have signed "from your Valentin".

Saint Valentine, the patron saint of epilepsy

Saint Valentine is not only the patron saint of lovers but also that of epilepsy. At the time, in fact, this "incurable" disease was "like the consequence of a curse or the result of possession by demons", according to the summary of researchers published in 2017 in the journal Repertorio de Medicina y Cirugía.

In the absence of remedies, the sick or their families turn to faith and the men of the Church.

About forty saints are thus associated with epilepsy, called convulsionary saints. Among them, we find Saint Valentine, one of the most famous. So much so that in France at the time, epilepsy was called "Saint Valentin's disease", or even "Saint Valentin's plague" in Germany.

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