On February 14th, Valentine’s Day, the day of lovers, is celebrated all over the world. This very important and heartfelt festivity originates in our Umbria and is specifically based on the history and important message of love spread by Valentine of Terni, bishop and Christian martyr born in 176 in Terni, then referred to by the Latin name of Interamna Nahars, who died in Rome on February 14, 273. Valentine continued to profess his faith and celebrate the sacraments albeit in a historical period characterised by persecutions against Christians.
He died at the age of 97, beheaded by order of Emperor Aurelian: the reason for his execution is not known, but it is said that among the accusations there was also that of having celebrated a “forbidden” marriage.
The legend of Sabino and Serapia
This legend recounts the love story between two youth, Sabino, a pagan Roman centurion, and Serapia who was Christian. The two lovers wanted to get married, but their different belief systems at the time represented an insurmountable obstacle. Legend has it that Serapia persuaded Sabino to convert to Christianity: the centurion accepted and asked Bishop Valentine to prepare him for Baptism. Just before celebrating the sacrament however, Serapia fell ill with a severe case of tuberculosis and Sabino, distraught with the idea of losing her, begged the bishop to join them in holy matrimony before it was too late. Valentine therefore baptised the young man and married the two lovers. According to the legend, just as the bishop raised his hands to the heavens to bless their union, they both died remaining forever united in their first embrace as husband and wife.
Other stories and legends about Saint Valentine
There are many more stories about Saint Valentine and his actions of love, kindness and courage. It is said, for example, that he celebrated other forbidden marriages: even if emperor Claudius II had forbidden all marriages to avoid distractions for men who had to go to battle, the bishop continued marrying couples who wanted to: this was another reason he was arrested and tortured.
Another lovely story is the one linked to the tradition of giving roses for Valentine’s Day: apparently one day Valentine heard two young lovers arguing, so he picked a rose from his garden, went to them and gave them the flower, begging of them to make up. The bishop suggested that the two young lovers both hold the stem of the rose, taking care not to prick their fingers, and pray to the Lord to protect their love and keep it alive for all eternity. A while later the couple came back to him asking him to marry them.
The story of this young couple soon spread and many were touched by it: many couples therefore started going on pilgrimages to Bishop Valentine on the 14th of every month, which became the day dedicated to love.
Today only February 14th remains, the day Saint Valentine passed away.
Umbria is a very popular destination for Valentine’s Day: not only is it the setting of the legends linked to the Saint, but it is also a romantic and enchanting land. For couples visiting the region, the perfect itinerary is the romantic itinerary of Todi.