St. Valentine, Priest and Martyr
St. Valentine was a holy priest of Rome who was martyred under the Emperor Aurelian in 270. He cooperated in the Savior’s sacrifice and Redemption “by bearing the cross after Him” (Gospel).
Known as the patron saint of couples for his defense of Christian marriage, St. Valentine was martyred by decapitation on February 14. He is the inspiration behind the modern-day celebration of Valentine’s Day.
St. Valentine’s reputation as a patron of couples was not won easily. He lived during one of the most difficult periods of Christian persecution in the early Church. According to most accounts, after a time of imprisonment, he was beaten and then beheaded, likely for his defiance of the emperor’s ban on Roman soldiers marrying.
St. Valentine’s skull can be venerated in the minor basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin near the Circus Maximus in Rome. St. Valentine’s relics were reportedly uncovered during an excavation in Rome in the early 1800s, though it is unclear exactly how his skull came to lie in the Byzantine church where it is found today.
In 1964, Pope Paul VI gave Santa Maria in Cosmedin to the care of the patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is part of the Byzantine Rite.