At Engager, we’re all about love in all its many forms, and all about the stories that reveal the incredible influence love has on our lives. So what better way to mark the day the world celebrates love than with a look at the stories behind St. Valentine’s Day?
Who was Saint Valentine?
While the name Saint Valentine is synonymous with love and has been celebrated for hundreds of years, we actually know very little about the person behind the story. In fact, the legend of Saint Valentine most likely combines the stories of two or more people sharing the same surname.
A Roman priest, Saint Valentine de Terni, was martyred on February 14, AD 273. He is said to have demonstrated unique healing powers before his death, including restoring the site of a blind girl. Another Valentine, Bishop Valentine of Interamna, is also said to have died on February 14th — both are buried in the same cemetery north of Rome.
It is also widely rumoured that the saint performed marriages for Christians and possibly for soldiers to prevent them from having to go to war. It is from this tale that many view Valentine as a symbol for love, whether it be true love, forbidden, courtly, or otherwise.
Myths and rumours surrounding the martyr grew rapidly in the 14th century when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in the classic Parlement of Foules, “for this was on St Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh to choose his mate”. Parlement of Foules is regarded as the first Valentine’s Day poem on record and served as the catalyst for the legendary day of love, cementing Saint Valentine’s name as a symbol for courtly love.
While Valentine represents love, Cupid, derived from Cupido, meaning “desire”, represents lust. Cupid, a god in his own right, is the son of Venus, goddess of love, and Mars, god of war. In classical mythology he is known as the god of desire and uses a bow and arrow to strike victims. Once hit with Cupid’s arrow, the victim becomes enamoured with another.
Cupid is said to have fallen madly in love with a beautiful mortal named Psyche, who, after many trial and tribulations, became a goddess.
The ancient tale of Cupid became associated with Valentine’s Day during the Renaissance and also symbolizes the connection between heavenly and earthly love.