Love is in the spotlight with Valentine’s Day, a celebration that we associate with gifts and its commercial side. But where and how was this festival of lovers born? Small return in history.

Theories evoking Valentine’s Day are rife. Historians do not all agree, but one thing is certain, each time it is a question of love… Or almost!

A pagan feast

This legend dates back to ancient times and is not very romantic. She is rather worthy of a horror movie. In ancient Rome, in the 5th century, from February 13 to 15 took place the celebrations called “Lupercalia”. These were purification rites to pay homage to Faunus, the god of fertility, but also of shepherds and flocks. A sweet mixture that led the priests of the time to sacrifice goats in the cave of Lupercal, in Rome. But that’s not all, the priests covered the bodies of some future priests with blood who then ran around the city. Dressed in simple loincloths and holding in their hands a goatskin filled with blood, they whipped the women they passed during their race. By this gesture, the affected women received the “gift of fertility”. For the glamorous side … we’ll come back.

Christian feast

Over time, this pagan tradition gradually lost its splendor, the Church was even scandalized by this practice. This is why she opposed this celebration and made it a Christian feast: “Valentine’s Day”. The pope at the time, Gelasius I, would have honored Bishop Valentin on February 14, making him “the patron saint of lovers”.

Who are valentines?

Small problem, depending on the story or the legends, several Valentines can take on this role of “patron saint of love”.

Valentin De Terni

Valentin de Terni was a miracle worker. He would have cured the son of the philosopher Craton of an incurable disease. In return, he and his whole family are converted to Christianity. Many other miracles followed, which did not please the Prefect of Rome. He was therefore put to death on February 14, 270. And it was not until two centuries after his death, in 495, that Pope Gelasius I made him become “patron saint of lovers”. Nothing really explains why this man became the symbol of lovers … But the story goes that this saint lived various adventures related to love, in the Middle Ages.

Valentine of Rome

Valentine of Rome is getting a little closer to Valentine’s Day as we know it today. This man was a priest and secretly married Roman soldiers. In the Middle Ages, the latter could not get married. When the Emperor Claudius II learned of these clandestine unions, he threw Valentin of Rome in prison. Behind bars, he would have met Augustine, a blind man and especially the daughter of the prison guard. Slightly miracle worker like his predecessor, he would have restored the sight to the young girl. She then took care of him. An epistolary relationship is born between them and the priest used, according to legend, to sign his letters with “Your Valentine”. From there was born the tradition of sending sweet words to each other on February 14th. Dramatic end for this man… He is finally beheaded.

Valentin of Rhetia

It’s hard to see the link with love, but this saint had the label of being “the protector of epileptics” in the Middle Ages. His kindness must have been associated somewhere with love… A man of course!

More concretely?

Nothing is very concrete, but it is suggested by historians that Valentine’s Day would have been born out of legends invented (or not) during the Middle Ages. It was a question for the men to hang, every February 14, the name of their sweetheart on their sleeve during the week following that date. A little later, the boys who accompanied the young girls on the first Sunday of Lent were called “Valentine”.

In the 19th century, Valentine’s Day gained momentum and it was a tradition for lovers to declare their love in writing. But that’s not all, best friends also have to say nice things to each other.

Image source: Unsplash

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