Although there is little documentation on any of them, the name Valentine was used by at least three martyrs of the early church. The confusion over the actual saint led the church to drop St. Valentine’s Day from its official list of feasts in 1969. And there have been other saints in more recent times with the same name.
The feast day actually came about as a reaction to the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on February 15th. One of the customs of Lupercalia was for each man to draw the name of a woman who would be his sexual companion for the year. In the year 496, Pope Gelasius I changed this custom to that of having young people draw the name of a saint to emulate through the year. He referred to St. Valentine, whose death date was convenient for the feast, as one “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” This only cemented the idea that Valentinus was an “undocumented” saint.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the date of February 14th is also associated with romance because halfway through February is when birds begin to pair up for mating season.
For a saint who died so long ago and left so little documentation, there are plenty of his corporeal relics left behind. The fact that there were a great number of saints named Valentine may explain the many relics.
A skull reputed to be Valentine’s lies on an alter at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome. The skull is always crowned with flowers.
The parish church in Chelmno, Poland, has a silver reliquary containing parts of Saint Valentine’s skull. It has been there since around 1680.
Some remains are intentionally collected and some turn up by chance. In 2002 members of the Church of St. Peter and Paul at Vyšehrad, Prague, Czech Republic discovered a holy relic – the alleged shoulder blade of St. Valentine. The story behind St. Valentine is unclear and several men have been linked to the legend of the saint, so unsurprisingly, several churches claim to have his remains. It is said that Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV brought the relic to Prague in the 1300s and the Holy Shoulder Blade is on display at the Church of St. Peter and Paul. A mass is said every Valentine’s Day – if candlelit dinners aren’t your thing.
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