Questions about saintValentine
Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the 14th February. Among several Saints, Valentine is the one who is associated with the lovers on the 14th February, it is the custom by those to be sent cards or gifts.
1Who was Saint Valentine?
2What is the origin of this festival of lovers?
Who was Saint Valentine ?
In Rome in 268, there lived a priest called Valentine. The Emperor Claude 11 had stopped him as a Christian and questioned him about his great reputation in the town. Here is the traditional account collected by Les Petits Bollandistes.
Valentine tried to lead the emperor to recognize Christ, and one says shook him. But among his advisers, the Prefect of the town named Calpurnius, intervened in order to say that this faith put the Roman traditions in danger; Claude, fearing disorder in the town, gave up Saint Valentine to the Prefect. This one brought him in front of the judge Astérius, who questioned him.
Saint Valentine prayed in front of his judge and his guards, asking God to light the way for those to know Jesus Christ, the true light of the world.
Astérius said: "I admire your prudence a lot; but how can you say that Jesus Christ is the true light?"
Saint Valentine answered: "It is not only the true light, but the single light which lights every man in this world" (see prologue of the Gospel of Jean Saint, ch.1, verses 4, 5 and 9).
Astérius said: "Let us do a test: I have here a young adopted girl who has been blind for two years; if you can cure it, I will believe that Jesus Christ is the light of the world ".
The young girl was brought forward. Saint Valentine put his hands on her eyes and made this prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ who is the true light, light your servant".
At once the young girl recovered her sight. Astérius and his ones converted. But the emperor tormented them as Christians, and they were condemned to death with Saint Valentine.
Saint Valentine after having been held in a prison where he was beaten with sticks and had his body broken, was decapitated on the Flaminia way on the 14th February 268. The place of his martyrdom had been preserved by a church that was built later by Pope John I; it had fallen into ruins when Pope Théodose made it rise again. It has disappeared completely since. In the walls of Rome, the door that one now calls the Door of the People, bore in the past the name of Saint Valentine’s Door.
Some Relics of Saint Valentine are preserved in the church Sainte Praxède, but some of them which had been brought to France into the Church of Saint Peter of Melun have disappeared.
Saint Valentine is named with the title of Famous martyr in the Sacramentry of Saint Gregory, in the Latin missal of Tommasi, in various martyred places and old calendars.
The English had kept it in their calendar. Saint Valentine was the patron saint of Tarascon, in South-East of France.
Saint Valentine and lovers
The name of Valentine means "health". Saint Valentine was represented holding a sword and a palm, symbols of his martyr, or of curing the girl of the Judge Astérius.
The cure of a young girl, and probably also the significance of the name, Valentine, which means "health" have maybe been of the origin of the fact that lovers are put under the patronage of Saint Valentine.
But sick people also invoked him (plague, epilepsy, fainting).
Some want to attach the feast day of the lovers linked to Saint Valentine to the ancient pagan Roman festival with Lupercales, worship of rural origin undoubtedly, during which half- naked men half struck the women in the streets of Rome, with thin straps of goatskin, which was supposed to ensure the fertility to them. It is rather unlikely to see a direct relationship to the feast day of today, because nothing attests it historically. In addition the Roman custom had nothing to do with the charm of the love letters...
One does not find any trace of Saint Valentine. Patron saint of Lovers before the XIV century.
It is indeed in the XIV century, in England and in France which appears for the first time the custom of sending a romantic note to the lucky man or to the lucky woman in your heart. This note was called a Valentine. (See wikipedia, article on Saint Valentine [ http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Valentine ]). Legends grew at that time, like that of the girl of the judge Astérius, who would have sent to this one a note "to my Valentine".
One believed at this time that birds paired themselves with Saint Valentine, on the 14th February. And one can certainly see it in the tradition of the sending of love letters, the influence of the courtly love invented in the Midi region of the troubadours, and developed in the cycle of the Breton Novels, in particular the cycle of King Arthur & the Round Table.
In the past the calendars of Saint Valentine was marked by a sun in the hand of the Saint, or a waffle-iron: a sun, because at that time it took force in our climates. They were the Four Times of spring, the flowers of the almond trees and of the hazel trees started to appear. As for the waffle-iron, it quite simply announced the rejoicings of the Carnival...
Today the custom of the Saint Valentine’s Feast Day of Lovers has a lot of followers... one could say, recapturing the meaning of Valentine, that it is good for your health!
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Saint Valentine baptizing Saint Lucile
Jacopo Bassano, 1575