Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine Ain't Nothin' but a Martyred Roman Saint

St. Valentine of Terni & Entourage
None of the Catholic Church's fourteen Saint Valentines had anything to do with romance (and the more you read about the medieval church, the more you understand why). There *might* have been some fertility rituals going on in pre-Christian Rome about that time, but they had faded from memory long before Geoffrey Chaucer was born.

Chaucer gets the mention because he makes the first known, verifiable link between Love and St. Valentine's Day, in  The Parliament of Fowls, in 1382:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

("For this was on Saint Valentine's day/ When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.")

And after Geoffrey, the day went from strength to strength, until it became the candy-coated, ribbon-bedecked, flower-killing juggernaut we know today.

My personal opinion: Chaucer accidentally conflated Saint Valentine with Ermintrude, patron saint of easily forgotten ritual obligations.

Yes, I am single. Why do you ask?

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