The month of February has come to be associated with romance and matters of the heart; both literally and figuratively. Valentine’s Day and also American Heart Association Heart awareness campaign are but some of the tributes to matters of the heart. We pride ourselves in tending to matters of the heart here at our Asheville NC bed and breakfast, At Cumberland Falls. While you make plans for your personal Valentine’s Day celebration, consider this history lesson.
St. Valentine took it upon himself to defy an edict issued by Claudius, then Emperor of the land disallowing young men to marry. During Valentine’s time the once heralded Roman Empire was rapidly in decline fraught with civil strife, educational decline and increased taxation. Claudius,in need of more soldiers to protect his flagging country felt the emotional attachment to wives and hence families made men both weak and ineffectual as soldiers. Though Claudius’s ban on marriage was not well received by Romans in general they were kept silent aware of the danger in speaking out.
Valentine, observing the sheer pain of love that could not be culminated in marriage risked his very life by secretly performing the sacrament of matrimony. Such things have a way of being discovered. When it was found out, Claudius responded with Valentine’s arrest.
Incarcerated for his defiance of the “no marriage edict”, Valentine’s jailer, Asterius, also hearing of Valentine’s gift for healing implored him to bring sight to his own child, a blind daughter. It is said that through his strong faith he was able to restore sight to the girl.
Though Claudius had ordered Valentine’s jailing he too was impressed with the fervor of Valentine, if not the direction it took. He tried to convert him to the Roman gods. Not only did this prove unsuccessful, embarrassing all the more the defied Claudius— but to add insult to injury, Valentine, in full awareness of the consequences of his actions, also tried to convert Claudius. Claudius,giving full vent to his anger, ordered the execution of Valentine.
Now, meanwhile, not only had Valentine restored the sight of Asterius’s daughter but they had developed an abiding and cherished friendship. As you might imagine, the news of her friends impending execution was terrifying to her.
It is unclear as to whether Valentine’s interest in the young girl was for her soul or he loved her in a romantic way but immediately before his execution his last thought was to contact her. He sought writing instruments and paper penning her a last message. Ending his missive to her was “From Your Valentine.” Either way, it is clear that his love for her was uppermost in his mind even as his own death was at hand.
He is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD. Christianity spread and the day became known as St. Valentine’s Day. It began to be celebrated annually as a day young Romans offered hand written greetings to women they admired.
Patti and Gary Wiles
Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls