January is whizzing by and before too very long we will be into February. In fact when mooching around the shops in Tenby, I have been amazed how quickly their shelves have been stripped of Christmas goodies, now all consigned to sale shelves and bargains baskets, only to be replaced by a plethora of frilly red and pink hearts, rosebuds and roses and fluffy loving messages in preparation for St Valentine’s Day on the 14th February. I mean, of course we all associate him with being in love, romance and marriage proposals, but who is this guy St Valentine?
Well it seems this is an age-old question that has been posed since time immemorial (whenever that was) and that he is a man of mystery, or should that be a construct?
Not meaning to be sceptical but it seems he is a lot of different things to different people and from very different times and places…
Let me explain. It seems there are eleven other saints named Valentine who are commemorated in the Roman Catholic Church. Only seven died on days other than February 14, meaning that the rest died on the 14th? Although the The Catholic Encyclopedia lists three St Valentines all of whom were martyred on the same day, 14th February, two of those were buried on the Via Flaminia outside Rome…One a bishop, one a priest…the other was just some unfortunate chap called Valentine who also got the chop on the same day.
I say chop, but actually some were imprisoned, some tortured, some battered with clubs or stones, some actually beheaded and some with all of the above. It seems some people loved him, some people hated him and others just wanted him to die horribly even though he was credited with various miracles, mostly restoring the sight of various girls.
Dates for him are a bit sketchy too, we could go with 3rd century, possibly 4th century and then there’s also the fanciers of the 5th and 6th centuries. Although the Saints & Angels page of Catholic online says he was executed either in the year 269, 270, 273 or 280. Take your pick.
In fact there is so much confusion about him, the Catholic Church removed him from their General Roman Calender in 1969, ah, the decade of Free Love! Hang on a minute…Love??
Wikipedia says that “St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, beekeepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.” …Blimey!
Despite Valentine’s ‘removal’ there are many churches in Europe dedicated to the saint/s. There are various martyrs’ relics of St Valentine which are liberally scattered around the world especially after they became all the rage in the medieval period.
In the18th century a couple of English antiquarians suggested that Valentine’s Day was created by taking advantage of his obscurity to make a jolly alternative to the pagan holiday of Lupercalia in mid-February. Others poo poo this, saying he was invented by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century. Others just think this is a money-spinner invented by American Card companies….
Well whatever the truth of the matter, no hang on, I’ve just spent paragraphs telling you there isn’t any single truth to the matter to the extent that the whole thing is complete tosh! But just buy the cards, the roses, the chocs and whatever floats your boat and try to have a lovely, loving day everyday and maybe just try a bit more on the 14th February to be an absolute lovey.