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This Day in History: Legend of St. Valentine
On 14 February, around year 278 A.D., a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, later known as Saint Valentine, was executed and a legend of romance and love is born.
Rome was then involved in unpopular and bloody campaigns under the emperor Claudius. Forced to maintain a strong army, but having a difficult time recruiting soldiers, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome, believing that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine was discovered, he was sentenced to be beaten to death with clubs and beheaded. The sentence was carried out on February 14.
Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.”
In truth, the exact origins and identity of St. Valentine are unclear, as there are at least three – all martyrs – listed in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Legends also vary on how the martyr’s name became connected with romance. The date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. On these occasions, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia, and he declared that February 14 be celebrated as St Valentine’s Day.
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