February 14 is the Festival of St. Valentine. Unfortunately, there are no fewer than fourteen guys named Valentine on the Roman Catholic tally of saints, so no one is completely sure which one is being memorialized. It might be that the day is reserved for all of them – sort of like Veterans’ Day, I guess.
The best candidate for being the original St. Valentine is a Roman priest named Valentinius who was martyred during the reign of Claudius Gothicus, around the year 270 CE. Although the details are sketchy, Valentinius was apparently caught in the act of performing Christian marriages – which was punishable by death.
Claudius took a liking to Valentinius and probably would have spared his life, but Valentinius took the overtures of friendship as indicators that Claudius might be interested in converting to Christianity. Valentinius was – mistaken.
The emperor had him hauled outside of town and clubbed. When that didn’t kill him, they stoned him. When the executioners got tired of that, they just whacked off his head with a sword.
What does this teach us? That Hallmark can turn anything into a cash cow.