Every February without fail stores are adorned with pink and red hearts, displays of chocolate and placards advertising "love" — all in the name of Valentine's Day, the holiday that comes on February 14 each year.
But while Valentine's Day has become a pop culture holiday, what do we know about Saint Valentine, the inspiration for the popular holiday? Mainly, who was Saint Valentine and why was a holiday created with his namesake?
In this story, we'll explore the Saint Valentine story to understand the context, background and the fascinating details surrounding this intriguing figure.
The Saint Valentine Story
So, who was Saint Valentine? Let's start with the Saint Valentine story. History assembled some fascinating facts about Saint Valentine, but one of the most stunning elements is the notion held by some that the source who inspired Valentine's Day might actually be ... two different people.
According to the outlet, Saint Valentine is recognized by the Catholic Church as a real individual who died in A.D. 270, but that's not the end of the story, as it seems Pope Gelasius I questioned the identity of the saint in A.D. 496. Why the confusion, you ask? History has more:
"One account from the 1400s describes Valentine as a temple priest who was beheaded near Rome by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. A different account claims Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, also martyred by Claudius II on the outskirts of Rome."
For context, Father Frank O'Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, told CBN News that, in addition to persecution, there was a policy from the emperor at the time that precluded young people from getting married — which plays into the theory that Saint Valentine was helping couples marry.
"[Claudias] also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people," O'Gara said. "This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died."
It's unclear if all of these details point to the same person or two different people, so the Saint Valentine story has been clouded with some doubt. Still, it's fascinating.
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Who Was Saint Valentine? It's Complicated
The discussion around the Saint Valentine story is so confusing that the Catholic Church actually removed Saint Valentine from the General Roman Calendar (the calendar that notes the celebration of saints) in 1969 due to the lack of historical clarity over the patron saint's identity and story.
So, the direct answer to "Who was Saint Valentine?" isn't as clear-cut as some would like. Still, it has inspired a holiday that has truly captured culture. Some sources claim Saint Valentine was a doctor and priest who was martyred under Emperor Claudius II Gothicus, though, as stated, others have said he was a martyred bishop.
As Britannica notes, the theory that Saint Valentine's story is comprised of two people could possibly be incorrect, and it could all be predicated upon one person, despite seemingly divergent details in the back story.
But, Why a Holiday?
You might be reading this and wondering, "Huh? How did we end up with Valentine's Day as a romantic holiday?" Well, you might have caught the detail that one version of the Saint Valentine story centers on the idea that he was martyred for trying to help Christians marry.
As O'Gara told CBN News, polygamy was likely very prevalent during Valentine's day, and considering the church's view on biblical marriage being essential, this became a problem. Valentine purportedly helped people marry secretly and was eventually imprisoned.
"Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against command of Emperor Claudius the second. There are legends surrounding Valentine's actions while in prison," O'Gara said.
Now, here's where the Saint Valentine story gets interesting and ties back to our modern celebration of Valentine's Day. Before he was put to death, the patron saint is said to have written a letter to a formerly blind girl he had helped heal that he signed "from your Valentine."
Flash-forward nearly 2,000 years, and this is still the same line many use when they write cards of love and friendship to those around them on Valentine's Day.
Looking for Valentine's Day Movies?
Looking for Valentine's Day movies? You're in luck! Here are just some of the romance movies now streaming on Pure Flix. Celebrate the season of love with these powerful titles:
A small-town business owner and young woman attempt the impossible: committing to a God-honoring relationship in a contemporary America. This movie comes with a discussion guideso you and your significant other can deepen your bond through conversation.
The only thing standing between Dr. Lisa Leland and the wedding of her dreams in the Hamptons is a 2,600-mile drive from Los Angeles to New York. However, a run-in with the law outside of Normal, North Carolina leaves Dr. Leland with a choice: Jail or community service.
Also, you can stream "Sweet Inspirations" right now on Pure Flix . It's a movie about four middle-aged ladies who discover purpose when they launch a unique fundraising effort to save a local women's shelter from imminent foreclosure, testing the limits of their friendship and themselves.
IT'S A FIXER UPPER
When the Dovers find themselves in financial jeopardy, they are left with only one solution: to sell the house Anne's parent's left her. But when no one wants to buy it, they decide the only way to get rid of the house is to fix it up.
Finding Love in Quarantine
Amid a crisis that has forced everyone into quarantine, Rick Baldwin is seeking sanity – and maybe even…. love?
We hope that you enjoyed the history lesson on Saint Valentine and Valentine's Day. And consider downloading the Pure Flix Hopeless Romantic Movie Guide for more Christian love stories to stream today.