The Who2 Blog

Was Saint Valentine Real?

This painting shows Saint Valentine in a dreamy, cloudy spot, reaching up as the Virgin Mary drops a rosary in his hand almost like you'd drop car keys to a valet(St. Valentine Kneeling in Supplication by David Teniers III)

“Was Saint Valentine a real person?” That’s a question we get often at the Who2 romance desk this time of year.

The short answer is this: We don’t know, and nobody really does. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia says there were at least three different St. Valentines associated with February 14th.

The most colorful stories, like the imprisoned saint sending a love note signed “From your Valentine,” were almost surely made up later. That happened as the legend got mixed up with Lupercalia, with the mate-choosing love birds of Chaucer, and eventually with the Hallmark money-making machine (which didn’t get in on the action until 1913).

Saint Valentine has to go in the same (heart-shaped) box with King Arthur and so many other semi-historical figures: The most fantastic stories certainly aren’t true, and the minor details will probably never be known with certainty, either.

When it comes to February celebs, Punxsutawney Phil is definitely a real-life being… although even he has his questionable aspects.

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