MIAMI (CBS4) — Most people know his name, but not many know his story. St. Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated around the world, but do you know the story behind the real St. Valentine? And it wasn’t invented just to sell flowers and candy.
The 2000-year-old story began with Valentine growing up in Terni, Italy, a town just to the north of Rome. By his early 20’s, the charismatic priest was ordained as the town’s first bishop. Young people flocked to see Valentine, but his passion soon came into direct confrontation with the Roman emperor.
Claudius, known as Claudius the Cruel, decided to ban marriage in order to increase the number of men who were willing to die for him in his wars. But Valentine defied the emperor and married scores of young couples that turned to him in love. Eventually, many came to see Valentine as their protector.
At the same time Valentine was defying the emperor’s marriage ban, he was called upon to tend to sick children. It was said many of the children under his care actually made miraculous recoveries.
The Roman Empire feared Valentine was becoming too powerful and popular among the citizens, and an order was given to imprison the Bishop. Legend says from his cell, Valentine sent word to the people of Terni that he was alive, and sent his message with a dove. He reportedly signed the note, Love, your Valentine.
He would ultimately be freed from prison, but he would never make it back to the city of Terni. On his way back, Bishop Valentine was abducted and beheaded. It is said he was killed on February 14th.
To this day, couples flock to Valentine’s chapel in Terni. They come on February 14 to make a promise to each other. Thousands have left love letters to the Saint asking for his blessing and protection for their loves or to help them find their soul mate.