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A Valentine’s Day Legend

February 5, 2024

St Valentine kneeling in supplication, to receive a rosary from the Virgin Mary by David Teniers III, 17th Century

By Guy Scott

On February 14, around the year 278 AD, Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Claudius II, was executed. Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having difficulty getting soldiers to join his military. Claudius believed Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their attachment to their wives and families. To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice, defied the decree and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270. Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell not for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.” For his great service, Valentine was canonized after his death.

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