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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.


Valentine, or Valentinus, the name of a considerable number of saints. The most celebrated are the two martyrs whose festivals fall on the 14th of February — the one, a Roman  p851 priest, the other, bishop of Terni (Interamna). The Passion of the former is part of the legend of SS. Marius and Martha and their companions; that of the latter has no better historical foundation: so that no argument can be drawn from either account to establish the differentiation of the two saints. It would appear from the two accounts that both belonged to the same period, i.e. to the reign of the emperor Claudius (Gothicus); that both died on the same day; and that both were buried on the Via Flaminia, but at different distances from Rome. The Martyrologium Hieronymianum mentions only one Valentinus: "Interamnae miliario LXIIII. via Flaminia natale Valentini." It is probable that the basilica situated at the second milestone on the Via Flaminia was also dedicated to him. It is impossible to fix the date of his death. The St Valentinus who is spoken of as the apostle of Rhaetia, and venerated in Passau as its first bishop, flourished in the fifth century. Although the name of St Valentine is very popular in England, apparently no church has been dedicated to him. For the peculiar observances that used to be commonly connected with St Valentine's Eve and Day, to which allusion is frequently made by English writers, such works as John Brand's Popular Antiquities (edited by W. C. Hazlitt, vol. II pp608‑11,º London, 1905), W. Hone's Every‑Day Book, and Chambers's Book of Days may be consulted. Their appropriateness to the spring season is, in a general way perhaps, obvious enough, but the association of the lovers' festival with St Valentine seems to be purely accidental.1

See Acta Sanctorum, February, II.753, 756, and January, I.1094; G. B. de Rossi, Bullettino di archaeologia cristiana (1871), p101 and (1878) p59.

(H. De.)

The Author's Note:

1 Until the close of the 19th century the custom of sending "valentines" — i.e. anonymous love-tokens, written or otherwise — on St Valentine's day was fairly general. They gradually lost their original significance, and the custom, where it survives, has become completely vulgarized.

Thayer's Note: For the connection between St. Valentine's Day and the ancient Roman religious festival of the Lupercalia, see my note to the article Lupercalia in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

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Page updated: 28 Aug 17