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  • Writer's pictureamanda@amandamcetas.com

When Did Romance Become Associated with Saint Valentine?


This past week was Valentine’s Day, the day many say a Roman priest, or alternatively a Bishop, named Valentine was martyred in the third century. He is said to have preformed secret weddings against the wishes of the authorities and was imprisoned in the home of a nobleman. There he healed his blind captor’s daughter, causing the whole family to convert to Christianity. (“Who Was the Real St. Valentine?”, History.com, 2/7/2024)


Bruce Forbes, a professor of religious studies at Morningsdale College in Iowa says, “The two stories that everybody talks about, the bishop and the priest, they’re so similar that it makes me suspicious.”


And the Catholic Church, which had celebrated Saint Valentine on February 14th since the 500s, removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, because “so little is known about him.” (Catholic Online) They do still recognize him as a saint.


Image: St Valentine and a Kneeling Donator, by Luca Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), Public Domain.


Many scholars believe that the Church first started celebrating St. Valentine’s Day to overshadow the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which was a popular fertility ritual that was still being practiced 150 years after Christianity was legalized. (Sydney Combs, “Valentine’s Day wasn’t always about love,” National Geographic, 2/9/2023)


Many scholars, including Jack B. Oruuch, a professor at the University of Kansas, claim instead that Geoffrey Chaucer introduced romance to the celebration of St. Valentine, when he wrote a poem in the 1370s or 80s entitled, “Parlement of Foules” to celebrate King Richard II’s betrothal to Anne of Bohemia.


And according to Henry Kelly, a scholar of medieval and renaissance literature and history at UCLA, the original date was May 3rd, not February 14th. Not only was King Richard’s betrothal on that date, but Chaucer used the phrase “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.” The May date makes more sense since England is very cold in February.


Chaucer and many other writers at the time started writing about the ideals of chivalry, among which was the idea of unrequited love. They wrote stories about knights and noble ladies who were desperately in love, but could not marry, often due to a previous political marriage. Then by the 1400s, nobles had begun writing poems known as “Valentines” to their lovers. This seems to be when Saint Valentine first was linked to romance.


Hope you all have a nice Valentine’s Day!


Take care until next time,


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