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St. Valentine figures through history

Did you know that there are at least three different “St. Valentines”? The first was apparently a martyred priest in Africa about whom little is known. The second ‘Valentinus’ was a popular bishop in the city of Terni, who served under the rule of the Roman Emperor Aurelian. The legend states that this St. Valentine married Sabino, a Roman solder to Serapia, a Christian girl. This upset the Emperor, who was of the opinion that a pagan and a Christian should not be married, and he ordered the bishop to be executed on February 14, AD 197. The bodies of Sabino and Serapia were later found in a single tomb, thus Valentines Day is held in remembrance of Valentine of Terni and the two lovers who chose to die instead of living apart.

The third and most popular St. Valentine was a Roman priest who also defied an emperor (Some historians believe the two men may be the same person). According to the legend, during the reign of Claudius II (268 to 270 AD), several bloody campaigns had left the Roman army critically short of men, but recruitment was low because men didn’t want to leave their wives and families. In response, the emperor issued a decree prohibiting marriage. Valentine could not accept this edict and secretly married young Christian men and women. When Claudius found this out, Valentine was arrested, thrown in prison and on February 14, 269 A.D., he was taken to the Flaminia Gate outside of Rome and whipped, clubbed, and beheaded. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for his jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine”.

— Ed Nicholson

Historical Society

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