Valentnes-Day-art - 9/20/08
History of and celebration of St. Valentines Day in the Middle Ages.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: dickeney at access2.digex.net (Dick Eney)
Subject: Valentine's Day
Date: 5 Feb 1997 21:57:10 -0500
Organization: Express Access Online Communications, Greenbelt, MD USA
Valentine's Day is mentioned in Chaucer (1381) with respect to "byrds"
choosing their mates (byrds being a synonym even then for young women).
Lydgate's _Min. (Minnesinger?) Poems_ lists one in 1430 "A balade made ..
in wyse of chesing loves at Saint Valentyne's Day". Later evidence shows
that one custom was to embrace the first person of the opposite sex that
you met that day as your valentine. Young people would meet the night
before, on Valentine's Eve, to draw lots to see who would be their
valentine the next day. These two customs persisted at least through
So a poem written to your Valentine would be quite appropriately medieval.
=Tamar the Gypsy (sharing account dickeney at access.digex.net)
From: Hillary Greenslade <hillaryrg at yahoo.com>
Date: February 14, 2006 6:53:11 PM CST
To: ansteorra <ansteorra at ansteorra.org>
Subject: [Ansteorra] Happy St. Valentines Day
Greetings on this St. Valentines Day,
If you want to receive a daily posting of the Medieval Saints days, then consider subscribing to the yahoo group for 'Medieval Saints'. Subscribers cannot post to the group, only receive a daily 'saint' listing.
Today's Saint Valentine information:
St. Valentine, bishop of Interamna (Terni)
Also known as Valentine of Terni; probably the same as Valentine of Rome
Beaten and beheaded c.269 at Rome; buried on the Flaminian Way;
relics later translated to the Church of Saint Praxedes
Commemorated February 14 (removed from the calendar)
Patronage: affianced couples, against fainting, bee keepers,
betrothed couples, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greeting
card manufacturers, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers,
plague, travelers, young people
In art, he is shown as a bishop with a crippled or epileptic child
at his feet; bishop with a rooster nearby; bishop refusing to adore
an idol; bishop being beheaded; priest bearing a sword; priest
holding a sun; priest giving sight to a blind girl; birds; roses;
At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are
mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14 February. One
is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna
(modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the
second half of the third century and to have been buried on the
Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William
of Malmesbury's time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian
Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of
St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church
dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighborhood. Of
both these St. Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they
are of relatively late date and of no historical value. Of the third
Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions,
nothing further is known.
Saint Valentine's Day
The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day
undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally
received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14
February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the
birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to
lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending
lovers' tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the
practice. Perhaps the earliest to be found is in the 34th and 35th
Ballades of the bilingual poet, John Gower, written in French; but
Lydgate and Clauvowe supply other examples. Those who chose each
other under these circumstances seem to have been called by each
other their Valentines. In the Paston Letters, Dame Elizabeth Brews
writes thus about a match she hopes to make for her daughter (we
modernize the spelling), addressing the favoured suitor:
"And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine's Day and every
bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday
night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to
God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may
bring the matter to a conclusion."
Shortly after the young lady herself wrote a letter to the same man
addressing it "Unto my rightwell beloved Valentine, John Paston
The Origins of St. Valentine's Day
The Catholic Church no longer officially honors St. Valentine, but
the holiday has both Roman and Catholic roots.
The roots of St. Valentine's Day lie in the ancient Roman festival
of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15. For 800 years the
Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus. On Lupercalia, a
young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and
would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.
Pope Gelasius I was, understandably, less than thrilled with this
custom. So he changed the lottery to have both young men and women
draw the names of saints whom they would then emulate for the year
(a change that no doubt disappointed a few young men). Instead of
Lupercus, the patron of the feast became Valentine. For Roman men,
the day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of women,
and it became a tradition to give out handwritten messages of
admiration that included Valentine's name.
There was also a conventional belief in Europe during the Middle
Ages that birds chose their partners in the middle of February. Thus
the day was dedicated to love, and people observed it by writing
love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved. Legend has it
that Charles, duke of Orleans, sent the first real Valentine card to
his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
(He, however, was not beheaded, and died a half-century later of old
Jesuit valentines, described by anti-papist Anglican Archbishop John
Gee in his "Hold Fast Sermon" (1624):
Some Jesuites . . . upon S. Valentines day, chusing some female
Saint for their Valentine; one takes Saint Agatha, another S. Clare,
another S. Lucie, another S. Catherine, another S. Cicely, &c. I
asked them what they meant to chuse such Valentines. They answered
mee, that in respect of their Vow, they could have no Valentine that
lived here upon earth: and in regard of their Angelicall life, they
were to clause Valentines in heaven. I asked them, whether they
thought those Saints knew that they had chosen them for their
Valentines. Oh yes, say they, we shall be honoured all this yeare by
that Valentine wee make choice off, and she will intercede for us,
and to some of us our Valentine doth appear in visible bodily shape,
telling us what to doe all the yeare after. Gee, 43-4
More on St. Valentine: