This is the day we acknowledge or reveal our love for that special someone thanks to a Forgotten Saint. No-one can ignore or forget St Valentine’s Day… guys do so at your peril! It is easy to be upset if your significant other doesn’t send you a card or bring you flowers but spare a thought for St Valentino, a largely forgotten Saint whose message of spreading and celebrating love still remains fixed our hearts, at least on 14th February.
Valentine’s Day as we know and celebrate it today has been heavily influenced by north and central Europe but the true roots of this love festival are to be found in Italy. The Legend of Saint Valentine himself as a figure is a fascinating one, not least because there is more than one contender for the title.
Valentine of Rome, and The Bishop of Terni are both said to have lived in the third century AD. Both were supposed to have been executed for their Christian beliefs on 14th Feb 270 AD. It is widely acknowledged that that these coincidences indicate one personage and that is likely to be The Bishop of Terni.
Each year in this Umbrian city, engaged Italian couples participate in February events that are associated with Valentine’s Day. An annual prize is awarded to a person who has demonstrated an immense act of love, such as Mother Theresa who has been accredited as winner of ‘Un anno d’amore.’
It is said that Saint Valentine cultivated roses which he lovingly offered to everyone belonging to his congregation. His marriage blessings were incredibly popular and to cope with demand he performed one ceremony every day of the year thus becoming known as the Patron Saint of Lovers. Some say he was the first also to celebrate an inter faith marriage between a Pagan and a Christian. The date of his death may have become mingled with the feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love, or with the ancient belief that birds first mate in the middle of February.
Italy, world famous for valuing love, beauty and La Bella Vita above all things is a perfect destination for a romantic 14th February celebration. In Tuscany many couples celebrate St.Valentine’s Day in Lucignano, in the Province of Arezzo, ideal for a symbolic ceremony, by visiting the famous L’albero di San Francesco (St. Francis’ Tree) or Albero d’oro (Golden Tree). The shrine is bewitchingly beautiful and crafted in golden copper and coral. Kept and lovingly revered in the small civic museum, locals refer to it as ‘The Tree of Love’ for the luck it is supposed to bring those in love… It might be worth a visit a day or two before your ceremony!