Happy Lupercalia Eve! I hope everyone has their goats to sacrifice tonight, so we can spend tomorrow running about the town soaked in blood and milk, whipping girls with the goat skins. Wait, hang on, I've just been handed this, apparently the Christians celebrate some weird chocolate holiday today instead. Freaks.
Before the fourteenth century, when Geoffrey Chaucer suggested that St. Valentines Day was romantic because it's when birds decide to mate, there were three guys that Pope Gelasius may have been referencing when he announced Valentine was a saint. Apart from their name, they had a couple of other details in common. They were all priests under Roman rule, and they were all executed.
Let's start with Valentine of Rome. Claudius II said aiding Christians is illegal. This was a time when marrying Christians was like marrying gays, and ValRome was a hardcore progressive justice-of-the-peace. He married so many Christians that ClaudTwo sentenced him to clubbing. Now, the word "clubbing" didn't have the same meaning as it does today, though it was similar in that it wasn't necessarily lethal. ClaudTwo had more than one card to play on progressive priests, and upped ValRome's sentence to decapitation. ValRome was martyred, allegedly, on February the 14th.
Valentine of Terni isn't quite as romantic. Thanks to the Catholics being organized, someone made the executive decision that ValTerni is the only Valentine recognized by the Catholic church, but sadly he's the only one of the three with no real romantic connotation. This dude was a duel-class bishop and construction foreman, overseeing a bunch of Basilica. Turns out he made a few enemies trying to convert Roman leaders. This was still under ClaudTwo's rule, and ClaudeTwo had a pretty standard system for dealing with proselytizing Christians leaders. ValTerni was beheaded, most agree, on February the 14th.
Then we come to my favorite, Valentine the Optometrist. ValGlasses was yet another proselytizing priest placed under arrest durring Roman rule. This guy was actually on trial when he managed to meet his judge's adopted blind daughter. Now, anyone who's ever played a fantasy role playing game knows about the magical healing powers of early medieval priests, and ValGlasses was no exception. In proper dramatic fashion, ValGlasses got his Pat Robertson on and miraculously cured her blindness. The judge immediately pardoned him, the girl fell completely in love and the entire community converted to Christianity. ValGlasses had a pretty solid win that round, but his luck didn't hold. Considering his line of work, it was only a matter of time before he was on trial again, and the next judge had no blind daughters. I'll let you guess the method and date of execution. Spoiler alert: it was decapitation on February 14th.
It's pretty easy to look at these three stories and see how the details have gotten jumbled over the centuries. All this confusion over multiple accounts and conflicting details is exactly what lead to Valentine's Day being removed from the books until Hallmark decided they needed a mid-winter sales boost. There is one lesson we can learn from this, though, and it's a lesson I think we can all agree on.
The true meaning of Valentine's Day is and will always be about one very important thing: giving head.