Valentine's Day: legend and myths about the protector of lovers
Almost no one knows the legend of St. Valentine, a bishop and martyr known as the patron saint of lovers. Born and raised in Terni, the city where he became Bishop, Valentino died on February 14th and from that moment his skull is exhibited every year as a relic in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, adorned with red roses. In Terni, where Valentino is patron saint, the Feast of the Promise: young people about to get married and couples who have been married for years exchange a vow of love.
History and legend of Valentine's Day
What links Valentine's Day to the party of lovers? According to some legends, it was the Church that chose it to replace the God Lupercus, revered in ancient Rome at this time of the year.
The date of February 14th can be traced back to the day on which Valentine was martyred, but according to some myths, choosing this day to celebrate couples also depended on the Lupercalia, ancient fertility rituals characterized by processions and free love.
The Lupercalia, however, were celebrations not accepted by the Catholic Church, as the priests had to enter the cave where it was believed that the she-wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, to make propitiatory sacrifices. In the meantime, the blood of various animals was spilled in the city, and the God Lupercus entered in an urn the names of men and women who were subsequently drawn by lot by a Cupid with the likeness of a child, and these couples would have to live together for a whole year, to complete the fertility rite.
Legend has it that in all this Valentine's Day was one of the few bishops of his time to formalize the unions between Christian boyfriends and in general he dedicated his entire life to the Christian community as a true example of faith. The feast of Valentine's Day on February 14, however, can also correspond to the engagement of Richard II of England with Anna of Bohemia, told by Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem "Parliament of the birds“.
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The legends related to Valentine's Day and love
As anticipated, there are numerous legends related to Valentine's Day. Among the many, we report two below, which are probably among the best known: there is one that tells of the love between a young centurion named Sabino and a noble girl from Terni named Serapia; and another that tells of the reconciliation between two engaged couples put in place by Valentino himself. Finally, a third legend sees the bishop of Terni on a mission as a healer.
- Legend of Sublime Love
Sabino and Serapia were in love with each other, but separated from religion: he was a pagan, she was a Christian. The girl, desperate, asked Bishop Valentino to persuade Sabino to approach the Christian religion. Valentino managed to convince him and so the two got ready for the wedding.
A few days after the wedding, Serapia fell ill with consumption and, before dying, asked Valentino to celebrate the wedding in advance. While the two young people promised each other eternal love, Serapia died and soon after, Sabino too: it was February 14th.
- The rose of forgiveness
Another legend entitled "The rose of forgiveness”Says that while Valentino was walking in his garden, he heard two boyfriends arguing. He plucked a rose and approached the two young men asking them to make peace by squeezing the stem, but being careful not to get pricked. Then he told them to ask God's forgiveness for the quarrel. The two engaged couples, who were struck by Valentino's gesture, asked him to celebrate their wedding, which took place on February 14th and since then this day has become dedicated to the feast of lovers. Even the rose is still today a typical gift linked to this anniversary.
- From your Valentino
There is also another legend according to which Bishop Valentino was able to restore sight to the blind daughter of his jailer and that, on that occasion, he wrote a note to the latter that read "From your Valentino". That's why, even today, on February 14 lovers use to exchange cards with sweet dedications of love.
Valentine's Day: the legends related to the protector of children
Valentine's Day is known as the protector of lovers, but not everyone knows that the bishop of Terni is also the saint of children. Let's see what are the legends to which to attribute this function.
- According to an early legend, Valentino used to welcome numerous children in his beautiful garden, letting them play freely. When he was imprisoned, the children could no longer go to the garden and this made them particularly sad. So two carrier pigeons joined him in prison, landing on the window of his cell. Valentino tied a note to the neck of the first pigeon in which he told the children that he loved him very much, while to the neck of the second he tied the key to the gate of his garden: in this way the little ones could return to play in the wonderful green space. Valentino's key became a symbol of his kindness towards children.
- Another legend says instead, that Valentino gave a rose or a generic flower to every child so that he could take it home as a gift for parents as a sign of affection and gratitude. This is why on Valentine's Day it is customary to give small gifts, also and above all floral ones, to the people we love.