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St Valentine (14th February)


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There are some thirty saints named Valentine, the most notable of which both have their feast days on 14th February:

  1. St Valentine of Terni; and

  2. St Valentine of Rome

St Valentine of Terni

The Roman Martyrology records under 14th February “At Teramo (Terni):

  1. St Valentine, bishop and martyr, who was scourged, committed to prison, and, because he remained unshaken in his faith, was taken out of his dungeon in the dead of night and beheaded by order of Placidus, prefect of the city. 

  2. [and] the holy martyrs Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius, who, while keeping watch at the body of St. Valentine, were arrested and put to the sword by command of the consular officer, Leontius”.

The Hieronymian Martyrology records

  1. under 14th February, St Valentine;

  2. under 15th February, SS Apollonius, Ephebus and Proculus;

  3. under 14th April, probably in error (see above), SS Valentine, Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius  from Interamna; and

  4. under 1st May, SS Valentine, Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius from Interamna.

The martyrdoms of SS Valentine, Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius are recorded under 14th February in the Martyrologies of Bede, Florus, Adon and Usuard

The legend of St Felician of Foligno says that Pope Victor I (189-98) gave him the authority to ordain other bishops, and that he duly ordained the deacon St Valentine as Bishop of Terni.

A copy of the legend of St Valentine (BHL 8460) is preserved under 14th February in the Leggendari del Duomo.  It records that a Greek philosopher called Craton invited St Valentine to Rome to cure his son Cherimon, whose spine was so contorted that his head was bent down to his knees.  St Valentine tried to convert Craton, but with limited success.  He nevertheleaa spent the night in prayer with the boy, who was duly cured.  Craton was then baptised along with some of hs students (see below). 

St Valentine also converted St Abundius (see below), the son of the city prefect, Furiosus Placidus.   The prefect arrested St Valentine and had him beheaded, after which the converted students took his body back to Terni for burial.

Some scholars have suggested that “ Furiosus Placidus” could be a mis-spelling of Furius Placidus, who was consul in  273.  The list of the early bishops of Terni website of the Diocese of Terni, Narni and Amelia says that he was consecrated as bishop of Terni in 197 and martyred in 273.

St Valentine of Rome

The Roman Martyrology also records under 14th February: “At Rome, on the Flaminian Way, in the time of Emperor Claudius, the birthday of St Valentine, priest and martyr, who after having cured and instructed many persons, was beaten with clubs and beheaded”.  (This is probably a reference to the Emperor Claudius II (268-270), although there is no evidence of the persecution of Christians at this time.)

This account formed part of the legend of "Marius, Martha, Audifax et Abacuc Persae et Valentinus presb. m. Romae" (BHL 5543 and 5543a).  The Roman Martyrology records the first part of the legend under 19th January: “At Rome, on the Cornelian Road, the holy martyrs Marius and his wife Martha, with their sons Audifax and Habbakuk, noble Persians, who came to Rome through devotion in the time of Emperor Claudius.  After they had been beaten with rods, tormented on the rack and with fire, lacerated with iron hooks, and had endured the cutting off of their hands, Martha was put to death in the place called Nympha; the others were beheaded and cast into the fire”.

St Valentine of Rome is not mentioned in the Martyrology of “Jerome”.  However, he is recorded under 14th February in the Martyrologies of Bede, Florus, Adon and Usuard.

St Valentine of Rome is traditionally associated with the Basilica of San Valentino, which Pope Julius I (337-52) built on Via Flaminia near the second milestone from Rome (between Porta del Popolo and the Milvian Bridge).  It is not clear that this church was dedicated to St Valentine at the time of its consecration, but surviving funerary inscriptions from the nearby cemetery indicate that it was associated with his cult from the early 4th century.

Associates of St Valentine of Terni

The Roman Martyrology records under 14th February: “At Teramo (Terni):

  1. [St Valentine and] the holy martyrs Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius, who, while keeping watch at the body of St. Valentine, were arrested and put to the sword by command of the consular officer, Leontius”.

Related entries under 15th February record:

  1. the holy martyrs Saturninus, Castulus, Magnus, and Lucius; and

  2. St Agape, virgin and martyr.

Related entries under 14th April record, “ At Teramo:

  1. St Proculus, bishop and martyr; and

  2. St Domnina, virgin and martyr, who received the crown with her virgin companions”.

The Martyrology of “Jerome” records these saints in association with St Valentie of Terni on a number of different days:

15th February:

    SS Saturninus and Magnus and the virgins SS Agape and Castula;

    SS Ephebus, and Apollonius of Antioch;

14th April:

    SS Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius and St Domnina the virgin;

1st May:

    SS Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius.

SS Proculus, Ephebus, Apollonius and Abundius

SS Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius were the students of Craton who took the body of St Valentine to Terni, where they buried it.  The Consul Leontius then arrested and beheaded them.  St Abundius, the son of Furiosus Placidus, Prefect of Rome, buried them beside St Valentine.  Links here for SS Proculus and Abundius discuss them in relation to the hagiography of saints of these names who appear in the Legend of the Twelve Syrians.

SS Agape, Castula and Domnina

A funerary inscription that was found in 1892 on site of the ancient cemetery at San Valentino came from the sarcophagus of a baby girl called Castula, who had died shortly after her first birthday and been buried on the 17th February.  Reliefs to the sides of the inscription depicted two praying women, identified by other inscriptions as Agape and Domnina.   The inscribed side of the sarcophagus is now in the Institute of the Campo Santo Teutonico, Vatican City.

The sarcophagus probably dates to ca. 350, perhaps a century before SS Agape, Castula and Domnina appear in the Martyrology of “Jerome”.   The entries are thus presumably inspired by the inscription.  Castula was transformed to the male Castulus in the entry in the Roman Martyrology quoted above.   Later legends of St Valentine state that SS Agape and Domnina belonged to a community of nuns that he had founded.

Cult of St Valentine in Terni

The cult of St Valentine is first documented in Terni in 752, when Pope Zacharius met the Lombard King Liutprand in the  “ basilicam Beati Valentini episcopii et martyris sitam in predicta Teramnensium urbe ducatus spoletini” (the basilica of the Blessed Valentine, bishop and martyr, in the fore-mentioned Terni, city of the Duchy of Spoleto).  In the bull by which he restored the diocese of Terni in 1218, Pope Honorius III recorded that the church of Santa Maria there (soon to become the Duomo of the newly re-constitured diocese) had previously belonged to: the glorious martyrs, St Valentine and St Proculus; and to the confessor, St Anastasius

In 1573, the apostolic visitor to the basilica of San Valentino found it to be largely ruined, although a small part of it was still in use.  In 1605, Pope Paul V allowed Bishop Giovanni Antonio Onorati to search for the relics of St Valentine on the site.  A decapitated skeleton was duly found and housed in the Duomo until 1618, when they were translated to the rebuilt basilica.  This led to a revival of the cult.

SS Valentine, Proculus and Anastasius remained the joint patron saints of Terni until 1644, when the decision was taken that St Valentine alone should have this designation, a decision ratified by Pope Urban VIII.

Relics of St Valentine of Terni

Despite the long traditio that St Valentine had been buried in Terni, his head apparently found its way to Jumièges, Normandy.   In ca. 1120, Bishop Balderik of Dol en Bretagne wrote the “Acta translationis capitis S. Valentini martyris Gemmeticum in Gallia” (Legend of the translation of the head of St Valentine to -BHL  8461), which detailed miracles that were said to have been performed by this relic of “the priest of Terni”.  For many centuries thereafter, the head of St Valentine was carried in procession throughout the countryside there in order to protect against drought and other threats to the crops.  The Église St Valentin still survives there.

The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria (the son of the Emperor Ferdinand II),  gave what he claimed to be the head of St Valentine to the new basilica of San Valentino in 1625 and paid for its high altar.  He was prince-bishop of Passau, Bavaria from 1625 until his death in 1662.  The relics of St Valentine of Rhaetia (whose feast day was 7th January) had been translated to Passau in 764 and he remains the patron saint of that city.  This suggests that the relic in question belonged to this other St Valentine.

Patron Saint of Lovers

The veneration of St Valentine as the patron saint of lovers seems to date to the poetry of Chaucer, and in particular to his “Parliament of Foules”, in which birds begin to mate on St Valentine’s day.  However, this may not have been 14th February: 2nd May, the feast day of St Valentine of Genoa might be a better candidate. 

Charles, Duke of Orleans sent a charming letter to his "valentined" wife from the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt (1415).  In Shakespeare’s in Hamlet (1600-1601), the mad  Ophelia sings of “Valentine's Day” as a day on which maids lose their virgnity.

The practice of sending valentine cards on 14th February seems to date to the 1840s in America.

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