Saint Valentine: The man behind the myth

Young woman creating a heart on the sand at a beach of Mykonos, where Semeli Hotel is located.

The 14th of February marks the celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day. This is a day popularly dedicated to lovers and to love, since according to tradition and myth, Valentine is the Patron Saint of couples. But who was Saint Valentine?

To begin with, something unbeknownst to most, is that 14th of February is in fact the day that Saint Valentine died in Via Flaminia, North of Rome. Little is known about the life of blessed Valentine. In effect, it is not even clear if he was one person or two different Saints with the same name. Due to all the conflicting information, the Orthodox Church has never acknowledged the existence of Valentine, and his namesake Day is nowhere to be found in the Orthodox calendar, while the Catholic Church has quite recently diminished its status to the level of a mere local level festivity.

According to the predominant legend, Valentine was a priest who lived in the 3rd century AD. Behind Emperor Claudius’s (who was then in power) back, he was performing marriage ceremonies for Christian couples in love and generally assisting Christians, which was at the time considered a hideous crime. For his acts he was thus arrested and jailed. However, the Emperor at first decided to grant him a pardon, until Valentine attempted to introduce him to Christianity and so Claudius condemned him to death by stoning. Valentine nevertheless survived the stoning and he was subsequently decapitated outside the gate of the Flaminia on 14 February 169.

Another myth however purports that Valentine was a former Bishop of Terni, a town in southern Umbria (Central Italy at the time), who was placed under house arrest when judge Asterios, disputing the validity of the Christian religion put him to test. In effect, he presented him with his blind adopted daughter and told him that if he could manage to make her see, he could then have his request fulfilled. Indeed Valentine restored the girl’s eyesight and the humbled judge asked him what it is that he wanted. St. Valentine instructed him to demolish all pagan statues within three days and to become baptized. The judge did as asked. He even converted his whole family into Christianity. This was however not liked by the Emperor Claudius, who thereafter detained and sentenced Valentine to death. And so this legend bears the exact same ending as the previous one.

This holiday started to acquire its contemporary prominence in 14th century when Valentine became associated with the concept of romantic love. The first written mention of him as a Saint is found in a poem called “The bird Parliament” (Parlement of Foules) written by Jeffrey Tsoser in 1382.

Today, Valentine’s Day, is an official holiday in the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church however, Saint Valentine the Presbyter is celebrated on July 6th, while the Martyr Saint Valentine (Bishop of Terni) is celebrated on July 30t. Nevertheless, given the general ambiguity surrounding the Saint’s life, it has become universally established to celebrate Valentine (or Valentini) on 14th February, which is also most predominantly the alleged date of death of the Saint, whose relics are decorated with flowers and publicly exposed in Saint Mary’s Basilica in Cosmedin, Rome.

Regardless of its Theological and religious manifestations, Valentine’s Day is nowadays celebrated with zest around the globe. It is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated yearly occasions and a welcome opportunity for couples to demonstrate their devotion to each other- if not a good excuse to ask that girl out on a date.

And what better place to do so than in cosmopolitan Mykonos?

To press this idea a little further, we’ll give you an extra tip:
In this world famous island, playground to the bold and the beautiful, there is Semeli: One of Mykonos’ premier hotels, in fact the sole five star establishment within the Town of Mykonos. With its stunning, contemporary, much awarded design and state of the art amenities, its unique brand of hospitality and acclaimed culinary offerings, it undoubtedly constitutes the ideal venue for the celebration of this special day. So why don’t you give it a go?

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Stylish sofa and wooden coffee table overlooking the pool at Semeli Town Best Mykonos Town Hotel.


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