In a few weeks time the country will go silly for a while as we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Love hearts, red roses, fluffy toys and toe curlingly embarrassing newspaper love messages will abound. But have you ever considered how all this smoochy daftness began?
Well, to begin with our Valentine’s Day is actually a Saint’s Day officially recognised by most of the mainstream Christian Churches. However, the origins of Saint Valentine himself are a little more difficult to pin down. There are apprently several different possible Valentines all seemingly alive at about the same time. All of them were early Christians in the as yet not Christian Roman Empire. however, the sotry which seems to be the most widely told is of Bishop Valentinus an early Christian who got himself into trouble with the non Christian Roman Emperor Claudius II by marrying his soldiers. Claudius believed that marriage dented the effectiveness of the troops and so imprisoned Valentinus. He apparently had no real desire to put Valentinius to death but the Christian refused to stop his activities and so his fate was sealed. It is said that while in gaol he fell in love with the daughter of the gaoler and restored her site. On the day of his execution (14th February) he is alleged to have sent the girl a letter which he signed “From your Valentine.”
This rather romantic last communication is marred somewhat by the brutality of the execution which began with stoning and ended with beheading.
Between the death of Valentinus in or around AD270 and the first official Valentine’s Day in AD 496, the fame of the martyr grew and archaeologists have found evidence of at least one shrine to the saint in ancient catacombs.
In the year since that first Valentine’s Day the significance of it for ordinary people has grown continuously and in 18th Century the habit of giving cards, flowers and sweets began. Today over 1 billion Valentine’s cards are exchanged each year.
However, Saint Valentine is a hard working saint not just responsible for lovers, he is also the patron saint of bee keepers (AH, NOW YOU GET THE TITLE OF THIS PIECE!) , epilepsy, fainting, plague, travellers and young people.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
The Somerville is now full for the Valentine weekend but there are some self catering apartments available next door at Bedford House. The Somerville has rooms available for other weekends ideal for a romantic break.