A Man Named Valentine
February 14, 2002
Since today is Valentine's Day, I thought it would be interesting to go back in time to find out how this celebration of love all got started! The story goes a little something like this...
There once lived a Roman emperor named Claudius (better known in history as Claudius the Cruel). A beautiful temple near his palace was where a priest named Valentine lived. The Romans loved Valentine and flocked to hear what he had to say.
When war broke out in Rome, Claudius mandated the citizens to fight. This would go on year after year. However, many of the Roman citizens did not want to go to war. The married men did not want to leave their families and the younger men did not want to leave their lovers. This angered Claudius so much that he made an order that all engagements and weddings should be immediately dissolved until the war is over. This caused great sadness in both the soldier and the lady he left behind.
When Valentine heard about this, his heart was saddened by the lack of compassion shown by Claudius. That's when Valentine began secretly performing weddings in his temple. Valentine quickly became a friend of lovers throughout Rome.
However, when Claudius found out about what Valentine was doing, he became extremely angry. Valentine was taken from the temple by Claudius' men and dragged away from the altar where a wedding was taking place. The soldiers threw Valentine into a dungeon for disobeying Claudius.
Although Valentine's friends pleaded with Claudius to release Valentine, the cries fell on deaf ears. This is when he was given the name Claudius the Cruel. Valentine languished and died in the dungeon. His friends buried his body in the church of St. Praxedes. When you go to Rome, you can see the date on his tombstone is February 14, 270.
Another account of the story says that Valentine was one of the early Christians who were in danger for their lives. When Valentine was caught helping some Christian martyrs, he was seized, dragged before the emperor of Rome and cast into jail. There he cured the jailkeeper's daughter of blindness. When the cruel emperor learned of this miracle he gave orders that Valentine should be executed. The morning of the execution, Valentine is said to have sent the jailkeeper's daughter a farewell message signed, "From your Valentine."
After Christianity was firmly established in Rome, the priests wanted the people to forget the old heathen gods. But they did not want to get rid of all their traditional feasts and sports. So they kept an old Roman holiday called Lupercalia and called it Valentine's Day.
During the medieval days of chivalry, the names of English maidens and bachelors were put into the box and drawn out in pairs. Each couple exchanged gifts. The girl became the man's Valentine for that year. On his sleeve he wore her name and it was his duty to watch over and protect her. This old, old custom of drawing names on the fourteenth of February was considered a good omen for love. It often foretold a wedding.
History tells us the first modern valentines date came in the 15th century. The young French Duke of Orleans, captured at the battle of Agincourt, was kept a prisoner in the Tower of London for many years. He wrote his wife numerous poems as Valentines. Nearly sixty of these valentines are still in existence today. They are a part of the royal papers in the British Museum.
Flowers on Valentine's Day appeared nearly two hundred years later. A daughter of Henry IV of France gave a party in honor of St. Valentine. Each lady received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the man chosen as her Valentine.
Thus from Italy and France and England has come the pretty custom of sending our friends loving messages on this day. With flowers, with heart-shaped candies, with lacy valentines whose frills hide the initials of the sender we honor the compassion of the good priest, St. Valentine, who was courageos enough to disobey Claudius the Cruel.
Aren't you glad he did? Happy Valentine's Day everyone!