Hi RXCLP fans!
Thanks for sticking with us for so long. All your patience is soon going to pay off! But since we still have some time before our book is in your hands, we thought it fitting to give some digital ink to the man (or perhaps men) honoured by the day we have chosen to launch our book. A big thanks to history.com and atlasobscura.com for the info.
On February 14 around the year 278 A.D., Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed.
Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. 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. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.
Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.”
For his great service, Valentine was named a saint after his death.
A skull resides in a glass reliquary in a small basilica in Rome, surrounded by flowers. Lettering painted across the forehead identify the owner as none other than of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine.
Knowing just exactly whose skull it is, though, is complicated. First off, there was more than one Catholic saint known as Saint Valentine. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February.” One was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa. Then there’s the approximately 1500 years between those martyr’s deaths and the enthusiastic distribution and labeling of bodies in the Victorian era. Finally, and most troubling, there is the fact that no less than ten places claim to house relics connected to St. Valentine, all around the world.
The church housing the skull is very old, standing on the site of an ancient Roman temple dating to the second century BC. Most of what you see there today dates to the 8th and 12th centuries, including the crypt located beneath the altar. The skull can be found in the side altar on the left side of the church. While you are at the Basilica of Santa Maria, stop by the portico to visit with the famous Bocca della Verità (mouth of truth).
Legends vary on how the martyr’s name became connected with romance. The date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love which took place on Feb 14-15th, which as you can see from the interpretation above may have been quite a party. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia, and he declared that February 14 be celebrated as St Valentine’s Day. Gradually, February 14 became a date for exchanging love messages, poems and simple gifts such as flowers.
Here’s a well done documentary that sheds some more light on Valentine’s Day:
And now, in just a handful of days, February 14th, along with all of the above, will mark something else…
A unofficial marriage that faintly echoes the ones performed by St. Valentine’s Day himself.
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More on THAT…next time…in our 100th blog entry!
See you then!