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10 Things You May Not Know About Saint Valentine

How much do you know about St. Valentine, the man who inspired Valentine’s Day? Discover a few surprising facts about this saint.

You know the Valentine’s Day traditions: giving candy, roses, and greeting cards.  But how much do you know about Saint Valentine, the man who inspired this day celebrating love? While details about his life are hard to confirm, discover a few surprising facts about the saint (or saints) behind the celebrations.

Artistic drawing of Saint Valentine on a gold background

1 of 10 There was more than one Saint Valentine

There are two accounts of St. Valentines who are likely to have inspired the holiday. One says he was a temple priest in Rome who was ordered beaten, stoned and beheaded by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples to wed at a time when Roman law forbade young people from marrying. Another says he was the Bishop of Terni (though in that account he was also beheaded near Rome by Claudius). Both accounts may be true. It’s thought by some that there were two priests of that name at the time.

A third Saint Valentine, who was martyred in Africa, lived at around the same time, but virtually nothing is known about him.

Stained glass window of Saint Valentine

2 of 10 There was a Pope Valentine

There have been a dozen or more St. Valentines over the centuries, and there is some debate about which one inspired the holiday we know today. There was even a Pope Valentine, who served for just over a month in A.D. 827.

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Artistic sketch of Saint Valentine

3 of 10 Valentine means "healthy" and "strong"

One of the reasons the real Saint Valentine’s identity is hard to pin down is because Valentine, or Valentinus, was a popular Roman name. It comes from the Latin word valens, which means “healthy” and “strong.”

A portrait of Pope Gelasius I who established Saint Valentine's Day

4 of 10 February 14th is his feast day

Valentine’s feast day was established on February 14 in 496 A.D. by Pope Gelasius I. The day did not then have a romantic connotation.

A picture of Saint Valentine in stained glass

5 of 10 He is the patron saint of many things besides love

Though Valentine is most closely associated today with love and romance (he’s the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriage, love, and lovers), he is also the patron saint of bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, the plague, travellers, and young people.

A pair of Saint Valentine's Day cards from the Victorian era

6 of 10 He penned the phrase "your Valentine"

Legend has it that on the day of his execution, St. Valentine wrote a note to his jailer’s daughter, whom he’d healed of blindness. He is said to have signed the note, “from your Valentine,” which some say led to the idea of a man appealing to a woman’s heart by asking to be her valentine.

Artistic drawing of Saint Valentine performing a wedding

7 of 10 Saint Valentine married couples in secret

Some legends also state that Saint Valentine would secretly marry couples so that the husband would not have to go to war. This was strictly against the emperor’s orders, but Saint Valentine did it anyway to save lives.

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Artistic portrayal of Saint Valentine

8 of 10 Saint Valentine is associated with romance because of Chaucer

In the late 14th century, English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a popular poem called “Parliament of Fowls.” The poem included a line which reads: “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.” This was the beginning of writers and readers associating Saint Valentine with the idea of romantic love.

Saint Valentine performs the wedding of a young couple who are clasping a rose, as depicted in stained glass in the Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni, Italy

9 of 10 Saint Valentine has symbols

In artistic depictions of St. Valentine, he is frequently accompanied by roses and birds.


A reliquary of Saint Valentine in the form of a silver bust

10 of 10 Saint Valentine was removed from the Catholic calendar of saints

Enough confusion still exists around the events of St. Valentine’s life that beginning in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church omitted him from the Catholic calendar of saints for universal veneration.  His name still appears on the Church’s list of officially recognized saints for local veneration, and he’s still beloved by many.


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