February, 13 2010.
Behind this door lies the story of one of history’s most famous saints, at least by name, St. Valentine.
These catacombs open once a year on St. Valentine’s Day, they're named after the Roman priest and martyr and date back to the third century.
But historians say the person the modern world now considers, the patron of lovers, is actually two saints rolled into one. Dr. Fabrizio Visconti
Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archeology“There are two Valentines…two saints who were martyrs, they probably died during the persecutions of the third century, either in 250 during diocletian’s persecution or valerian’s persecution in 256, before the great persecutions of the fourth century.”
According to Prof. Visconti, who’s in charge of Rome’s catacombs, these elaborate feet likely belong to martyrs, possibly including St. Valentine.Dr. Fabrizio Visconti
Pontifical Commission of Sacred ArcheologyThere were two floors of catacombs, and one basilica. The martyr was buried in the basilica. Different historical sources remember the saint. There’s a famous passage from the 5-6th century about a martyr named Valentine who was buried on Via Flaminia, an important road full of necropoli.
The other St. Valentine was bishop of Terni, a town in central Italy, in the third century. He was a martyr and later declared a saint, but his fame as the patron of lovers is something new.
Fr. Mario Ottaviani
St. Valentine’s Basilica (Terni)Devotion to St. Valentine of Terni as the patron of lovers is a tradition that came about later, in the last 50 or 60 years....
Times have changed. Instead of paying homage to the two martyrs on Valentine’s Day, Roman lovers now flock to the Milvian Bridge. There couples throw keys into the Tiber as a symbol of their union.
The modern world may have invented its own idea of St. Valentine and made a special day out of it. But in the end, the holiday is still based on the philosophy which these saints lived. Giving up one’s life for love.