We all know the origin of the most important holidays in the year. Most of us, however, don't know the origin of Valentine's Day.
February 14 marks the date (273 AD) of the martyrdom of St. Valentine, tortured and beheaded at Via Flaminia (near Rome) in the third century AD, at the age of 97 years.
St. Valentine was born in 176 AD in Interamna Nahars (the old name of Terni - Italy) from a patrician family. He converted to Christianity very early and was consecrated bishop of Terni when he was only 21 years old.
He spent his life devoting himself to good works and love from all points of view. He was told to work a lot of miracles for lovers during his long life. It is often quoted his aid on a couple having a tiff. According to a first reconstruction the saint approached the lovers with a rose and asked them to keep it in their hands reconciling them. Another version says, on the contrary, he flew around the two lovers pairs of pigeons who exchanged so many effusions to make the two lovers see reason. Hence the term: lovebirds.
But surely he is recognized Saint by the Holy Catholic Church, Orthodox and Anglican Churches too not only for this kind of miracles. He was well known in his time for charity, apostolate, his humility and a lot of miracles. A good example is how he healed the son of the Greek and Latin orator Craton, Chaeremon. After healing the boy he converted the entire family. But this was his last miracle because he was imprisoned and taken out of the city of Rome (where he had been called by the same Craton) for fear that people could rise to the news of his arrest. There he was scourged, tortured and then beheaded at night.
His remains were taken to Terni by his disciples who later also suffered martyrdom. He was buried in a hill where a great basilica was later built. Basilica still keeps his relics.
Other relics are still preserved in other churches of Italy.
St. Valentine is patron saint of the city of Terni and patron saint of lovers and universal love in perpetual memory of the universal teaching of love that he was able to spread.
In Terni on the Sunday before the Feb. 14 is celebrated the Feast of the Promise. Couples exchange the promise of love in the Basilica of St. Valentine before the Bishop and the urn that holds the relics of the Saint. Very impressive ceremony. I can testify having lived some years in Terni.
Is this the origin of Valentine's Day? It's not all.
February 15 is the date in which the "Lupercalia", pagan festival dedicated to the purification of fields and fertility, were celebrated in ancient times. Over time, the party had degenerated and was replaced by the Christian holiday in an attempt to re-order costumes.
But the custom of exchanging love messages and gifts? Perhaps it can be traced back to the High Middle Ages and the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer where courtly love was born according to the tradition. But it was in the United States, in the XIXth century, that some entrepreneurs realized that it was very popular to exchange love tickets for this event ("Valentines" with the classic form of hearts, doves, cupids ...). They began to produce them on an industrial scale and found favor with the public on this, creating their own luck. The commercial soul of Valentine's Day has its origin in what I've just told you.
A last curiosity. What is the oldest "valentine" we know? Charles d'Orleans, prisoner in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) wrote this romantic "valentine "to his wife. " Je suis desja d'amour tanné, ma tres doulce Valentinée…"