In this image from a 14th century French manuscript, St. Valentine of Terni oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni. (Image from www.wikipedia.org)
BY LINDSAY MCCOY
Times Bulletin News Writer
VAN WERT - Cupids, hearts, roses, teddy bears, and words of adoration are all around today as the world celebrates Valentine's Day. Other than Christmas, Valentine's Day is the top card-sending day of the year. Each year, nearly $150 million to $1 billion worth of cards are sent on this day of romance.
The true story of the roots of Valentine's Day vary slightly, but February has been the month to celebrate love ever since the Middle Ages. In all accounts of the story, the name Valentine's Day stems from the bishop named Valentine who was stationed in the Roman Empire, but the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.One legend describes Valentine as defying the emperor after it was decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families and marriage was outlawed to all young men. It was Valentine who realized the folly of the situation and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When the emperor discovered these actions, Valentine was put to death for standing up for young love.
Medieval miracle plays based on the Bishop Valentine show him brutally beaten, bloodied, and finally decapitated before angels transport him to heaven. While the color red is often used to signify this holiday, most do not connect it to the bloody massacre performed upon this man.
Another story describes Valentine being killed for attempting to help Christians escape the harsh conditions of Roman prisons. According this legend, Valentine was imprisoned for his charitable actions toward Christians and during this time fell in love with a young girl, possibly the jailor's daughter who visited him during his confinement. It was then that the first valentine greeting was sent in a letter signed "From your Valentine", and the expression that is still used today.
In the stories of the life of Valentine, he is always portrayed as charitable, heroic, and a man who holds a high esteem for love and romanticism in his own heart. Either way, Valentine grew to become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Many believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of the saint's death, but others contend that the Christian church decided to place this holiday in the middle of February in an effort to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival held on Feb. 15, dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture. This celebration survived the initial rise of Christianity but was soon deemed un-Christian and outlawed when Feb. 14 was officially declared Valentines Day by Pope Gelasius.
In this version of the story, it wasn't until much later that love was tied to this special day. The idea that Valentine's Day should be a day of romance was decided as it was commonly believed during the Middle Ages that this date in February marked the beginning of birds' mating season.
The oldest-known valentine greeting still is existence today is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned after being captured in a battle. This greeting is now part of a manuscript collection of the British Library in London.
Today, Valentine's Day is the most popular holiday among lovers, florists, and card companies. Today, restaurants and public businesses will see an overflow of business with couples celebrating their love for one another on this day of romance. Many businesses and restaurants offer a variety of specials for this particular February day. For those who aren't usually romantic, this is the one day they are expected to step up and play the part of smitten lover to their significant other. For those that are single, Valentine's Day comes as a day of dread. It is these people who tend to remember that the origins of this day stem from the beheading of Saint Valentine.