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The Origins of Valentine's Day: Martyrs & Poets

Valentine's Day - a day of mixed emotions, too much emotion, and lots of chocolate.  It's origins lie neither in deep Pagan traditions nor the pure commercialism of recent decades.  Instead, it stems from a bloody combination of Christian martyrs and the medieval poet Chaucer.  

 

THE VALENTINI MARTYRS

The date of February 14th marks the death and decapitation of three Christian monks, all named Valentinus.  Two were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus (appropriate) in 269-270 AD.

The first Valentinus died in the 3rd century AD along with 24 soldiers in Africa.  

The second Valentinus was a Roman priest who was arrested and later executed for curing the blindness of his master's daughter.  He was beheaded, but a Christian follower stole his body and buried it under the Via Flaminia in Rome, where there is a monument to this day.

The third and final Valentinus was a bishop of Terni in Umbria, Italy.  He also cured a local villager and was executed for it, and also placed under the Via Flaminia.  Because of the similarities in their stories, many historians believe the 2nd and 3rd Valentinis to be one man with two legends.

(In case you're wondering, a persistant group of Belgian monks called the Bollandists discovered evidence of these martyrdoms in the 1600's and published their findings)

Today many different chapels and churches claim to have pieces of the Valentini skulls, which are said to produce miracles and healing.  All three have also amassed a number of romantic twists to their orginal legends.

 

CHAUCER'S LOVE BIRDS

So how do we get hearts and romance from a series of beheadings?  The romantic aspect of February 14th originated with The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer in the medieval period.  In his poem, Chaucer wrote the below:

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

Apparently birds mated in February, and the people of the time adored this natural, romantic idea.  They began to call their loves "Valentine" - Shakespeare's Hamlet referred to Ophelia as "Valentine", and the French Duke of Orleaon's wrote from his prison in the Tower of London to call his wife "Valentine".  By the next century February 14th was firmly established as the day to write sweet notes to lovers and appreciate the ones you had.  

Along came mass-produced cards, chocolate and jewelry and BOOM - modern day Valentine's Day. 

 

Inspired by the macabre-yet-sweet origins of Valentine's Day, we';ve created a delightfully dark collection: the DARK VALENTINE COLLECTION

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