Reliquary of the alleged skull of Saint Valentine in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

12 Valentines Day History Fun Facts

What began as a feast day for a martyr named Valentine evolved into a celebration of love and romance. Here are some fascinating facts about Valentine's Day.

St. Valentine Was Removed From the General Roman Calendar

Saint Valentine painting.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Though he's still recognized as a Catholic Saint, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, because so little is known about him (Brittanica). Most of the records about St. Valentine were likely destroyed during the early 4th century. It is believed that Valentine of Rome was a priest who secretly performed Christian marriages and was martyred for refusing to give up his faith on February 14th, AD 264. 

Miracle of Healing 

A lantern with a heart shape cut out glows in the dark.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Legend says Valentine healed the blind daughter of his jailer, and then she and the jailer's entire household converted to Christianity.

The First Valentine's Card 

A blue envelope and a red heart in the hands of an elderly woman.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Before his execution, one legend says that Valentine sent a card to his jailer's daughter signed “Your Valentine.”

More Than One Saint Valentine

Statue of Saint Valentine who protects lovers in a garden.
Saint Valentine Statue in Terni, Italy. Image Credit: Stefania-Valvola/Shutterstock.

There are actually several early Christian martyrs named Valentine who are linked to February 14th. 

Valentine of Rome was martyred in 269, according to Catholic Online. Valentine of Terni was martyred in 273, and a relic that was claimed to be his head was preserved in New Minister Abbey. A third St. Valentine was martyred in Africa according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, but nothing more is known about him.

Multiple Churches Claim to House Relics of the Saint

Skull of St Valentine is kept in the Greek-Catholic Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, Italy.
Photo Credit: AlfvanBeem, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

In several places around the world, there are relics and body parts supposedly belonging to St. Valentine.

In Rome, his skull is displayed at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Prague claims to have one of his shoulder blades, which was found in the church basement. In Dublin, at the Whitefriar Street Church, there is a vessel with remnants of his blood. And in front of the altar of Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant, Missouri, there are relics kept inside a wax effigy of the saint.

Love Birds of Spring

two swans forming a heart while swimming on a lake.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Valentine's Day evolved into a celebration of romance by the 14th and 15th centuries. It's believed the association with love developed through the idea of “courtly love” which was popular during that time. 

Not a Public Holiday 

Table full of food at a Celebration Feast.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Despite its popularity, Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday in any country.

It is, however, an official feast day or commemoration day in multiple Christian denominations. 

Symbols of Love

Hands hold up paper chain of hearts.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

In 18th-century England, it became a day for expressing love with flowers, confectionery, and greeting cards. There is a legend that St. Valentine gave out paper hearts to remind soldiers of their marriage vows – potentially linking this symbol to the giving of cards with hearts on them today.

Saint Valentine's Keys for Love and Preventing Epilepsy

Vintage key and pink heart on a string with a bow. Valentine.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

In Italy, St. Valentine’s Keys are given as an invitation to unlock the giver's heart. They are also given to children to protect against Epilepsy as there was once a common belief that St. Valentine could perform miracle cures and heal this malady.

The Message of Valentine’s Amethyst Ring 

Amethyst crystal.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring with a cupid engraved on it. The legend is that Roman soldiers would recognize the symbol of love and ask Valentine to perform a Christian wedding for them. This is likely the reason Amethyst is known as the birthstone of February.

Jack Valentine Leaves Sweets

Box with different sweets on wooden background.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

In Norfolk, England, a character named ‘Jack' Valentine leaves sweets and presents for children on Valentine’s Day.

A Patron of Beekeepers and Pilgrims

Beekeeper working tools on a wooden table.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

In Slovenia, Valentine's Day is associated with the beginning of spring and good health. St. Valentine is celebrated as a patron saint of beekeepers and pilgrims.

Sources: Wikipedia, Catholic Online, Catholic Encyclopedia

 

Alissa Zorn

Author: Alissa Zorn

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