Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Legend of St Valentine

Remember when you were at school and every year around Valentine's day there'd be a big assembly and you'd hear the story of St Valentine and everything would be purple because according to my old RE teacher, purple is the colour of virtually every Christian holiday? At least... that's how I remember it. So, do you?

I don't hate Valentine's day, I only hate some aspects of it. The commercialism of it, how it encourages us to waste money on crap that we might not use, on bottles of wine and chocolates that are cheaper at any other time of year, not to mention all the fucking waste. I probs would have given up on it entirely if it wasn't for knowing the true story of St Valentine, and how Valentine's day came to be. I promise it's not like a boring history lesson.

Once upon a time, in a land far away (Rome), a very long ago, there lived a priest called Valentinus... aka Valentine of Rome. He was a Christian priest at a time when Roman paganism ruled in the form of Roman Emperor Claudius II. It is said that Emperor Claudius II tried to convert the Christian priest to Roman paganism, and interrogated him in person. Alas, t'was not to be, Valentine tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity. 

At the time, soldiers were banned from marrying as Emperor Claudius II believed married men did not make good soldiers (although, it's also said he encouraged his soldiers to take three or four women...). Valentine believed in love so strongly, he performed illegal marriages for these soldiers in secret. Supposedly, Valentine wore a purple amethyst ring, often worn by Christian bishops at the time, with an engraving of Cupid on it, a recognisable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers would recognise the ring and ask him to perform a marriage for them.

One dark day, Valentine was discovered performing one of these secret marriages. He was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. Whilst waiting for death, Valentine came to know his jailer's daughter, a blind girl named Julia. Legend has it that he performed a miracle and Julia began to see again, which convinced her whole family of Jesus' existence and they were baptised and converted to Christianity. 

On the eve of Valentine's execution, he wrote a letter to Julia, signed 'Your Valentine'Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome, located near the cemetery of Saint Hippolytus. According to legend Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave.

Today,  the flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics are found at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. People still make pilgrimages to both these sites.

And that is why we celebrate love on Valentine's Day. Are you doing anything special today? 😃 

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