Who Was St Valentine?

Typically, in history, the origin of some of our saints and festivals morph into one and St Valentine is no different – he is many people morphed into one. Here we take a look at the origins of who he might have been, and why they are associated with the most romantic day of the year…

They say that some lose their heads for love… Well, this is certainly true of St Valentine

The first St Valentine is a Christian saint who was doing his business around 3rd century Rome. Remember, Christians were persecuted by the Romans – chucked to the lions so in many places around the world (like in Egypt) their societies had to operate in secret because what they were doing could have them killed.

The first St Valentine was part of a secret underground Christian movement at the time of Claudius II (Claudius Gothicus – and not because he was the first to listen to Sisters Of Mercy and wear black) and he is associated with love because he married Christian couples in secrecy (he also helped fellow Christians who were being persecuted and thrown to the lions by Claudius but that bit isn’t relevant to today’s post…)

Claudius had him slammed in jail and while he was awaiting execution, he tried to convert Claudius from his pagan ways. Obviously Claudius was fuming – why would he want to convert to a more sedate Christianity? Paganism followed MANY gods and had many parties celebrating these many gods – not to mention the mystery gods… Or the sacrifices, or the days partying hard on wine and women – and men (this 3rd century St Valentine wasn’t up for partying hard, Andrew WK style, basically).

He was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate and you can visit his reliquary (pictured above) in the basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Apparently, his bones and a vial of blood ended up in Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Church. But before he died, he sent a message to the jailer’s daughter, who he had fallen in love with, that said, ‘From your Valentine’.

He is said to be executed on February 14th – a bit of a convenient date, considering a lot of important dates have been muddied with Pagan parties- remember, the Lupercalia is on the 15th… and when Christianity cleansed the world of the debauchery that was happening in the name of religion, a lot of Pagan celebrations just so happened to fall on the same date as this new religion…

Back in history, Valentine was a popular name. Like John or Chris… It was used a lot because Valentinus meant powerful and strong… And butch. But of the Valentines we know about (there are effing loads of ‘ordinary blokes’ with this name noted in history), it doesn’t seem to be a lucky name.

Aside from St Valentine of Rome, who you’ve just read was beheaded, there was another Valentine, the Bishop of Terni. Because this bloke lived around the same time and was also apparently beheaded by Claudius II, some believe this to be the same bloke. The Catholic church has a massive list of Saints and there are many named St Valentine, and there was even a Pope Valentine (he served only 40 days).

One Valentine who fared a bit better was St Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Dominican order Spaniard, who traveled to Vietnam and served as bishop. Then in true St Valentine tradition, he too had his head chopped off in 1861.

Real Life ” I Do”! Rachael’s Scrap Book Proposal

Continuing our proposal inspiration, we asked real-life bride to be Rachael how she popped the question to her intended, Neil… She had to get creative because lockdown scuppered the original plans, but we think this is beautiful! This is what she said…

THE SCRAPBOOK PROPOSAL

I had already decided in December 2019 that I was going to propose to my partner. I knew he wanted to get married, as did I, but was being a bit slow about proposing. He’s not really a jewellery or big spontaneous gesture kind of person, so flash mobs, public proposals and engagement rings were out of the question.

We’ve always referred to each other as adventuring buddies both think Up! is romantic (the first bit) and I like crafts. So I decided to make him a scrap book to propose with. We have an in joke, and 15a means ‘I love you’. So clearly sections of the scrap book needed to be numbered up to 15b being ‘marry me’. I set about the book in January 2020, including lots of tickets, photos, napkins, cards, anything to spark a joyous memory.

But when to propose? On a nice weekend away was obvious. We had two suitable trips planned, the last weekend in February and then in May. We’ll, there was no way I was proposing on the only day in 4 years where women are traditionally allowed to (29th Feb), so May it was. Then covid, ill health, furlough and all sorts of things hit. Needless to say the trip in May did not happen. But I couldn’t wait for all this to be over as it dragged in into August with no end in sight. So, with the scrap book ready, I ordered a wonderful set of cheeses from our local cheesemonger, as it was something special. I tidied the dining room (we rarely eat in there, so it felt like being somewhere other than the house we hadn’t left in 4 months) and set it up to look like a Parisian restaurant (our last holiday was Paris) with Moulin Rouge on the lap top (a film we both adore and have amazing memories of the Secret Cinema version). We ate. We drank. I gave him the book and got very nervous! He beamed looking through all of the sections and memories and when he got to 15b, grinned at me, said yes, gave me a kiss, and ran off!

He returned with a little box with a ring and asked me the same question! He had been planning to propose on the May trip too! Of course I said yes! We then video called parents and announced on social media. I was so pleased that it managed to all feel magical despite being at home. It was a very ‘us’ proposal.”

I Love the way Rachael proposed to Neil – thanks so much to her for sharing this fabulous and inspiring proposal! It really sums up the story of their life together so far… They get married in October 2020 ❤

All pics by Rachael Eyre

Will You?

Yes, we all know it’s a cliche and only to be expected on St Valentine’s Day – but so what? If you want to pop the question, then why not?

Any day is a good day for love! Here are a few ideas to make it a bit different…

TREASURE HUNT

We’ve all been on those treasure hunts, where clues lead to other clues and the winner gets, well? What? I don’t think I can remember winning any actual treasure… However, now is your chance to change all that, where the winner (or should I say, only contestant) gets to win your heart and a sparkler to put on their finger.

Granted, during lockdown, this might be a bit more difficult as we’re not allowed to go anywhere, which means you will have to be a bit more creative when you lay down your clues around your house and/or garden… and also, choosing the time of day might make it feel more special – eg, doing it after the sun has gone down by candlelight… Your clues could be simple post it notes cut into the shape of a heart and each clue leads your intended to a different, but special location – perhaps one clue could lead to an unforgettable photograph, and the next lead to the kitchen, where there is a treat (like your last rollo?) or to their favourite dish or ingredient, the next to the wardrobe and to an item of clothing or shoes they were wearing when you first met? You get the idea, make your clues part of your story together and it will be a fun and memorable proposal.

If you want to wait until lockdown is over for your love adventure, then you can make an even bigger treasure hunt that leads to special places, such as the place where you first kissed, somewhere you have your first date, etc.

In both cases, just make sure you keep the treasure on your person as you really don’t want the ring falling into the wrong hands… and make the last clue one that leads to your heart, so you have the chance to propose! If you want to make that more fun, you could hide and they have to find you for the treasure!

and don’t forget, you don’t have to make it a paper trail! you can go low-tech and do it on text messages, or by sending part of a picture of where the next clue is, so they have to guess the whole picture. When they’ve found the place, why not attach the story to the item – eg, “These were the shoes you were wearing when we first met”? This shows you have thought about the details of your relationship and have taken notice!

More ideas coming tomorrow!

From The Heart…

As St Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some more historical facts about the heart…

did you know, the heart has been associated with our feelings and will for thousands of years – just look at the ancient Egyptians who weighed the heart against a feather to see if you were worthy of the afterlife. If your heart was lighter than a feather, you were allowed through that elusive doorway. It was thought that the heart, not the brain, contained all your emotions.

The fact that the heart is in the centre of the body only re-enforced this fact, and if the heart was pierced, you could die.

An early Roman “scientist”, Galen, was the first to realise the heart beats faster in different circumstances. They linked the feeling of the quickening heart (and that funny feeling in the chest) to love. In the middle ages, artists would base their somewhat naive anatomy drawings on the written descriptions of Galen and Aristotle without actually basing it on the real thing and while it’s obvious that the heart is red to represent all that blood pumping around the body because you are in love and your heart is “all a flutter”, the heart was always depicted upside down with a small dent in its base (the dent gradually became bigger). It was gradually turned around in the 15th century and by the 1800s, this heart shape, which appeared on tabards (livery), playing cards, religious pictures and other paintings was everywhere. And started to be sent out as a message of love.

Why the heart?

As St Valentines Day approaches, I thought we would have a look at what is it, and why we use the symbol of a heart as the universal sign of love…

The heart symbol has absolutely no relation to the heart we have in our bodies, aside from the fact that people in historical times thought that the heart was at the centre of the body, and that it drove our feelings. The heart shape itself has its origins in foliage, fruit and seeds. In ancient Greece, they loved this massive fennel-type plant called silphium. It was the wonder ingredient of its time, the greeks and Romans loved it so much that they consumed it to extinction. Not only could it be used to flavour foods, it was also medicine and used for birth control and its seeds were heart-shaped. Others believe that the fig leaves used to cover the modesty of Adam and Eve were the origins of the heart shape (as are ivy leaves…). Later, in the 13th Century (Tom, that’s for you) a famous French manuscript, ‘Roman de la Poire’ shows a pair being handed to a lover in a title page illumination. Nothing whatsoever to do with a heart – but the shape is similar and the pear represents love and fertility in many different cultures.

It also has its origins in the naive anatomy drawings that started to come out in the middle ages. The artist would base their drawings on the written descriptions of Galen and Aristotle without actually basing it on the real thing!