Will the real St. Valentine please stand up?
Everyone loves getting Valentine’s (even if it’s just from your mom), but who do we have to thank for the cheesy notes and heart shaped chocolates? You’re probably thinking, “St. Valentine, duh.” Which is true…sort of.
In Rome, (where you can find a bunch of St. Valentines) it’s unclear which one actually inspired the nice words on chalky candy hearts. There are several possible paths to uncover the 411 on the patron saint of love, so buckle up.
The one with the weddings
Nothing says “love” quite like a wedding. One legend states that Emperor Claudius II of Rome figured his soldiers were better equipped for battle if they didn’t have a bride waiting for them at home. So, young men were banned from marriage. But these soldiers were having none of that. Going behind the Emperor’s back, they looked to tie the knot in secret. Enter Valentine, who performed the stealth weddings in the forest. He was eventually executed for his actions, but never forgotten.
The one with Julia
Another version finds our hero, Valentine, once again at the mercy of Claudius II (seriously, what was this dude’s problem). Valentine was given the choice to live only if he renounced his faith in favor of paganism. He refused, and was set to be executed. Before his death, Valentine is said to have restored sight to a girl named Julia, the jailer’s daughter.
The one with the love note
Valentine and Julia are back, but this time, they’re in love. On his last night of living and breathing, Valentine wrote Julia a letter, signing off with “Your Valentine”. Basically a Nicholas Sparks book just waiting to happen. Some scholars speculate the body of the letter went something like this:
Roses are Red;
Violets are Blue.
Good thing your sight is back,
or this would make, like, no sense to you.
He was then executed for his actions. (You should know by now that this is pretty much how his story always ends.)
The one with the English guy
In 1382, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote “Parlement of Foules", a romantic poem that first connected St. Valentine with the celebration of love. Chaucer is mostly irrelevant to our story, except that it reconciles the varying accounts into the one saint we celebrate today. Plus, who doesn’t have a soft spot for British accents?
So, where in the world is St. Valentine?
You can view the skull of St. Valentine in Rome at the Basilica di Santa Maria…maybe. There are at least nine other places claiming to house relics of our boy Val, including Prague, Poland, Scotland, France, and the UK.
And who are we to say who’s right? The only thing we know, is we want to help you get to all of the cities and see the various Valentines for yourself.
Forward by Madeline M., Copywriting Intern at EF Ultimate Break