Valentinus, a priest in Rome and a physician, was beheaded there under Claudius the Goth on February 14 and buried on the Flaminian Way, where a basilica was erected in 350. On the same day in the Roman Martyrology is celebrated another Valentine who was bishop of Interamna (Terni) about sixty miles from Rome and who was scourged, imprisoned, and then beheaded there by order of Placidus, prefect of Interamna. Tradition has it that the two are the same, ------that the bishop of Interamna had been a Roman priest who became bishop and was sentenced there and brought to Rome for his execution. The custom of sending Valentines on February 14 stems from a medieval belief that birds began to pair on that day.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship 12 gods. To be a Christian was a crime punishable by death, but the threat of death did not frighten Valentinus who was imprisoned. During his last weeks the jailer asked him if he would teach his daughter Julia: she had been blind since birth. Valentinus agreed and described to her the beauty of God's creation, and taught her how to pray. Julia believed what the Saint taught her and asked God to cure her blindness. As Valentinus and Julia prayed for this, a bright light shown in the jail and she was healed.
On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia telling her to always stay close to God. He was Martyred the next day, February 14, 270 A.D. It is thought that she planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. The above image is a romanticized depiction of the Saint as a bishop-cupid.
VIEW A PAINTING OF THE MARTYR WITH SAINT LUCILLIA
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