The Legends of St. Valentine

Valentine book from iStock

In honor of Valentine’s Day, several DePaul faculty members discuss the holiday’s cultural implications and historical context. Scott Moringiello, an assistant professor of Catholic Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, explores the legends and myths surrounding St. Valentine below.

Although we associate St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love, this association has more to do with 14th-century poetry than it does with the third century St. Valentine. The historical Valentine, about whom we know very little, is in many ways less interesting than the legends that surround the priest who was martyred Feb. 14, 273.

Legends surrounding St. Valentine have him restoring the sight of his jailer’s daughter, secretly marrying couples so that the husbands would not have to fight in the military or refusing to sacrifice to pagan idols. Our current tradition of associating St. Valentine with romantic love likely comes from the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. In the late 14th century, Chaucer and friends wrote poems that featured St. Valentine as the patron saint of mating birds and human lovers. Birds were believed to mate in the middle of February, which was—and is—Valentine’s feast day.

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Read about the holiday’s cultural implications.

Tomorrow: Learn about Valentine’s Day spending habits and other marketing research related to the holiday.

Image via iStock.

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