“from your Valentine”

On February 14, 270, Valentine, a priest in Rome, was cruelly executed during the persecution of Christians under Emperor Claudius II. Since earliest times his feast has been associated with the habit of girls and boys declaring their love or vowing to be each other’s “steady partner” for the year. Some say this custom developed because the mating season of birds begins on this day. There is a medieval legend, however, that tells how the saint, shortly before his execution, wrote a kind note to his prison master’s friendly daughter. He signed it “from your Valentine.”
“from your Valentine”

On February 14, 270, Valentine, a priest in Rome, was cruelly executed during the persecution of Christians under Emperor Claudius II. Since earliest times his feast has been associated with the habit of girls and boys declaring their love or vowing to be each other’s “steady partner” for the year. Some say this custom developed because the mating season of birds begins on this day. There is a medieval legend, however, that tells how the saint, shortly before his execution, wrote a kind note to his prison master’s friendly daughter. He signed it “from your Valentine.”

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine's arm is raised in blessing over the newly married couple.

Private Collection/Archives Charmet
Photo: Bridgeman Art Library
XIXth Century
Painted glass
CHT 166658
© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it.”
(Ephesians 5:25)

Valentine, Bishop of Rome, preached that the love of Christ was above devotion to the Emperor. During the persecutions of Claudius II’s reign (268–270), marriage was banned, since Claudius believed single men were better soldiers. Valentine continued to marry couples in secret, because depriving couples of the right of betrothal deprived them, both literally and symbolically, of the right to express their love. Since love, in the Christian tradition, is of God, and loving marriage a path to holiness, Valentine’s act was deemed a form of political resistance.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it.”
(Ephesians 5:25)

Valentine, Bishop of Rome, preached that the love of Christ was above devotion to the Emperor. During the persecutions of Claudius II’s reign (268–270), marriage was banned, since Claudius believed single men were better soldiers. Valentine continued to marry couples in secret, because depriving couples of the right of betrothal deprived them, both literally and symbolically, of the right to express their love. Since love, in the Christian tradition, is of God, and loving marriage a path to holiness, Valentine’s act was deemed a form of political resistance.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Saint Valentine of Terni Marrying Sabino and Serapia

Saint Valentine of Terni Marrying Sabino and Serapia



In the 17th-century basilica, the union of a Roman couple is blessed by Saint Valentine. In their hands they hold a flower, representing the fullness of life.

Basilica di San Valentino, Terni, Italy

Stained glass
© Basilica di San Valentino, Terni, Italy


“Believe therefore the son of God to be the true God, Jesus Christ, and renounce all images, and you will see your son saved.”
(Valentine of Terni)

The story of Valentine of Terni speaks to love’s power to heal and transform. Crato, a noble Roman citizen, summoned Valentine to minister to his ill son. Valentine spoke to Crato about Jesus Christ as the “great physician,” whose love for human beings heals our understanding and transforms illness and death. Crato, a student of reason and philosophy, expressed little interest in Valentine’s faith. Valentine struck a bargain with him: “if your son is saved through my faith, you, through the salvation of your son, shall, with all your household, be converted to Christ.” At dawn, the youth emerged from Valentine’s care, healed, and Crato’s household came to share in Valentine’s understanding of Christian love.
“Believe therefore the son of God to be the true God, Jesus Christ, and renounce all images, and you will see your son saved.”
(Valentine of Terni)

The story of Valentine of Terni speaks to love’s power to heal and transform. Crato, a noble Roman citizen, summoned Valentine to minister to his ill son. Valentine spoke to Crato about Jesus Christ as the “great physician,” whose love for human beings heals our understanding and transforms illness and death. Crato, a student of reason and philosophy, expressed little interest in Valentine’s faith. Valentine struck a bargain with him: “if your son is saved through my faith, you, through the salvation of your son, shall, with all your household, be converted to Christ.” At dawn, the youth emerged from Valentine’s care, healed, and Crato’s household came to share in Valentine’s understanding of Christian love.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Three Unmercenary Women

Three Unmercenary Women Saint Valentine stands in a long line of saints stretching back to the first century of the Christian tradition that includes the “unmercenary physician.” These three women were medical doctors. The sisters Zenaida and Philonella were born in Tarsus and cousins of the Apostle Paul. The third, Hermione, was born in Caesarea of Palestine early in the 1st century. In the Christian tradition they are seen as the founders of medicine.

Heiko Schlieper
Provincial Museum of Alberta
c. 2000
33.3 x 28.6 cm
© Heiko Schlieper


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
• Explain the history and premise of St. Valentine as it originated in ancient Rome
• Demonstrate an understanding of the history of courtship and marriage
• Communicate the connections between contemporary Christian holidays and pagan feasts.
• Describe how historically the notion of romance was broader than physical attraction and reached higher meanings such as courtly love in Medieval times and passionate and divine love in Biblical themes


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