Monday, 14 February 2011
Valentinus - Worthy, Strong and Powerful
I heard on the radio this morning on the way to work that Valentine's Day (14th February) was the commercial invention of a famous card company 'Hallmark'. I knew there was a Saint Valentine, but couldn't make my mind up whether or not the Hallmark story was true. Needless to say, a bit of research debunks that theory.
In fact this day is Saint Valentine's Day. Little is known of Valentinus (means worthy, strong and powerful) who gives his name to this day save to say he is buried in Via Flaminia in Italy, just north of Rome. Indeed just to complicate matters, there could have been several Saint Valentines and they were all Martyred saints of ancient Rome.
The feast day of this anonymous man dates back as far as 496 AD, established by Pope Gelasius the first (remember him - the name trips off the tongue) who included Valentinus among those "... whose names are justly revered among men but whose acts are known only to God." So we don't know what he did nor will we ever know why he became famous.
A woodcut of Saint Valentine appeared in 1493 - the first 'picture' of the man. The connection to romantic love only became popular in Geoffrey Chaucer's day in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries and it wasn't until the late 1700s that hand written cards expressing love for your partner became more popular after the British publication of The Young Man's Valentine Writer which gave a number of examples of romantic verses that people might try.
Since the 19th century, commercial cards have flourished and these days - anything goes in terms of how Valentines day is expressed - red roses, choccies, red plastic baloons, romantic dinners etc etc. Awwwww.
So there you have it - a potted history thanks to various pages on Wikipedia.
As for this fifty something Yorkshireman? Haven't celebrated it for what seems like forever. Why? Who knows - I can remember giving cards to girlfriends in my teens, perhaps I've just grown out of the need to be dictated to by commercial sector and express my feelings on just one day of the year. Still, for hopeless romantics, I hope they enjoy it and have a fabulous day.
*The rose is red, the violet's blue
The honey's sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.
*Gammer Gurton's Garland (London, 1784) in I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 375.
** Valentine's Day card courtesy of Wikipedia - origin unknown.