(from the History Channel)
A Holiday Rooted in Love and Tragedy
Tomorrow about a billion Valentine's Day cards will be given away as a symbol of love and affection, which begs the question: Who was Saint Valentine and when and why did the holiday begin?
The history of the actual Saint Valentine is hazy and legends vary. Stories center on a third-century Christian priest named Valentinus who defied the Roman emperor Claudius II—either by ignoring a law forbidding the marrying of Christians or for concealing persecuted Christians—and was sentenced to die. One legend has it that while imprisoned Valentinus was moved by the faith of a blind girl, and on the eve of his punishment (stoning followed by decapitation) he wrote her a touching adieu, signing it "From your Valentinus."
Later, in 498, February 14 was declared "Saint Valentine's Day" by Pope Gelasius, a date most likely selected to commemorate the day Valentinus was martyred or to co-opt a popular Roman holiday.