Guest Author - Rachel Webb
It seems that the truth about who Saint Valentine, Saint Valentinus or in Spanish San Valentin actually was is a bit vague. Supposedly he’s one of three martyred saints. The feast of Saint Valentine first began in 496 by Pope Gelasius 1 when honours were given to a group of men, one being Saint Valentine. The Pope is reported to have said
"... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God."
The feast is said to have been created to replace a pagan festival that was celebrated in Rome in the 5th century.
Surviving legends were rekindled and enhanced in England and France in the middle ages when the date February 14th became associated with Romantic love.
It’s presumed that the emergence of spring, with its new hope mating birds and spring flowers is the source of “sweethearts day”. Flowers were picked and sent to the loved one according to much French and English literature of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The remains of Saint Valentine are supposedly in a small back street church in the centre of Madrid. The Iglesia de San Antón is a forgotten jewel with a colourful past, sadly in need of restoration works. Once known as the ‘Royal Church and Pious School of San Antón, a school founded for young nobles by the Spanish nobility.
Closed and ran-sacked during the civil war then used as a prison, the bones of Saint Valentine lay forgotten until 1986 when they were discovered in a crypt.
With permission from the Vatican a skull and a pile of bones now lay on display to the world, whether they belong to Saint Valentine or not who can say?
These are not the only bones that are claimed to be those of the infamous sweethearts Saint. A Carmelite convent in Dublin, and a Benedictine convent in Scotland also say they have the remains of Saint Valentine. Personally I prefer to look at roses.