His birth date and birthplace are unknown. Valentine's name does not occur in the earliest list of Roman martyrs, that was compiled by the Chronographer of 354.
The feast of St. Valentine was first decreed in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those "... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." As Gelasius implied, nothing is known about the lives of any of these martyrs.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the saint whose feast was celebrated on the day now known as St. Valentine's Day was possibly one of three martyred men named Valentinus who lived in the late third century, during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (died 270):
* a priest in Rome
* a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni)
* a martyr in the Roman province of Africa
Various dates are given for their martyrdoms: 269, 270 or 273. The name was a popular one in Late Antiquity, with its connotations of valens, "being strong". Several emperors and a pope bore the name, not to mention a powerful gnostic teacher of the second century, Valentinius, for a time drawing a threateningly large following.
That the creation of the feast for such dimly conceived figures may have been an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia that was still being celebrated in fifth-century Rome, on February 15 is apparently a figment of the English eighteenth-century antiquarian Alban Butler, embellished by Francis Douce, as Jack Oruch conclusively demonstrated in 1981. Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love.
It is believed that the priest of Rome and the bishop Valentinus are each buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different distances from the city. Their calendar days of martyrdom have been made to coincide. In the Middle Ages, two Roman churches were dedicated to Saint Valentinus. One was the tenth-century church Sancti Valentini de Balneo Miccine or de Piscina, which was rededicated by Pope Urban III in 1186. The other, on the Via Flaminia, was the ancient basilica S. Valentini extra Portam founded by Pope Julius I (337‑352), though not under this dedication. Though the basilica is quae apellantur Valentini, "which is called of Valentinus", early basilicas were as often called by the name of their former patron as by the saint to whom they were dedicated: see titulus.
In the catacombs connected with the basilica of Valentinus, outside the Porta del Popolo, nineteenth-century excavations unearthed two hundred Christian inscriptions. Lanciani reported, from the chronicle of the monastery of S. Michael ad Mosam, an account of a pilgrim of the eleventh century who obtained relics of saints "'from the keeper of a certain cemetery, in which lamps are always burning.'" He refers to the basilica of S. Valentine and the small hypogaeum attached to it (discovered in 1887)" .
The earliest written Acta for Saint Valentinus were written in the sixth or seventh century, when the hagiographical genre was well established, with pious accounts of magic and torture shared among many texts and applied to many martyr-saints. The longer of the two is that written of the martyr Valentinus of Terni and his magical cure, through faith alone, of a crippled child. Bede, in the eighth century, knew of both hagiographies and included respripts of both under 14 February in his martyrology
The Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine, compiled about 1260 and one of the most-read books of the High Middle Ages, gives sufficient details of the saints and for each day of the liturgical year to inspire a homily on each occasion. The very brief vita of St Valentine has him refusing to deny Christ before the "Emperor Claudius" in the year 280. Before his head was cut off, this Valentine restored sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer. Jacobus makes a play with the etymology of "Valentine", "as containing valour".
The Legenda Aurea does not contain anything about hearts and last notes signed "from your Valentine", as is sometimes suggested in modern works of sentimental piety. Many of the current legends surrounding them appear in the late Middle Ages in France and England, when the feast day of February 14 became associated with romantic love.
St. Valentine's Day
For more details on this topic, see Valentine's Day.
Jack Oruch has made a well-supported case that the traditions associated with "Valentine's Day", well-documented in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parliament of Foules, and generally set in a supposed context of an old tradition, in fact had no such tradition before Chaucer. The speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among eighteenth-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of Butler's Lives of Saints, and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. Most notably, "the idea that Valentine's Day customed perpetuated those of the Roman Lupercalia has been accepted uncritically and repeated, in various forms, up to the present"
In 1836, relics that were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, then near Rome, were identified with St Valentine; placed in a gilded casket, they were transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, to which they were donated by Pope Gregory XVI. Many tourists visit the saintly remains on St. Valentine's Day, when the casket is carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love. Alleged bodily relics of St Valentine also lie at the reliquary of Roquemaure in France, in the Stephansdom in Vienna and also in Blessed St. John Duns Scotus church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland.
The saint's feast day was removed from the Church calendar in 1969 as part of a broader effort to remove saints viewed by some as being of purely legendary origin. The feast day is still celebrated locally in some parishes such as Balzan in Malta where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, as well as by those Catholics who follow the older, pre-Vatican II calendar. Prior to this action, the church in Rome that had been dedicated to him observed his feast day by, among other things, displaying his reputed skull surrounded by roses, much like the iconography often used by the Grateful Dead.
*From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia