Wisdom Through Humor
Convenient Saint Valentine

by Martin C

By all accounts Saint Valentine was a great man who died, it was very much later deemed, because his religious beliefs were also great. In fact, the latter establishes the prior. This greatness undisputed though, I suspect that the chances that Valentine was a great romantic of the third century who set the magnificent example of sending cheesy love notes to his favourite lady are not great. Apparently, there were three Saint Valentines over the years, one was a Priest in Rome, another a Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) and the third met his martyred demise somewhere in North Africa. By convenience of record keeping, the existence of these saints is recorded under the date of February 14, which, quite possibly, had something to do with one of them.

As the Middle Ages rolled around, people began to associate as much of the unexplained with as much of the explained as possible. Though this was done, despite logic, in a way merely convenient to those in charge at the time, by way of faith, it gave understanding to the previously unexplained. (Superstition then was such a big help to everyone, as indeed it still is today). Such an association coincidentally occurred with the day ascribed to the good Saints Valentine, who, in all likelihood, were not so much love smitten heroes but bloody murderers who died in the employ of the church who knew love only by way of a sharp sword and religious righteousness.

The coincidence is that February 14 is roughly the time when, in France and England at least, the local bird species begin their pairing up and mating season. This was seen as the perfect time to institutionalize, (another "in" concept of the time) a day in the name of romantic love, or the beginnings of it at least, and so Saint Valentine's day's date was convenient. Certainly the Valentines wouldn't have minded, after all, this sort of front-man job is why Saints are made in the first place.

So by 1382 when Chaucer wrote the Parliament of Fowls, in which appears:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

Things were pretty well set, and only the cheesy red gloss greeting cards remained to be developed. So I urge all those partaking in Saint Valentine's Day activities next Monday to spare a thought for three long dead servants of the early church and of course for convenience and coincidence; which is what love is really all about anyway.


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