The Legend of St Valentine

The Legend of St Valentine

Martyred on 14th February in the late 3rd century AD

Antique garnet and pearl snake necklace berganza hatton garden
Antique garnet and pearl set snake necklace, circa 1880.
Ref: 18691

Thursday 8th February 2018

The story of St Valentine is more legend than fact. In truth, there are not one but over ten Valentines who have been commemorated by the Catholic Church! This perhaps is not surprising since the name is derived from the Latin word valens meaning powerful, strong and worthy and was a popular name in late antiquity.

It is thought that there was at least one man named Valentinus who was martyred on 14th February in the late 3rd century AD, however the rest of the details of his (or their lives) is a little hazy. The true identity of St Valentine was questioned as early as 496 AD by Pope Gelasius I, who referred to the martyr and his acts as ‘being known only to God’.

One of the fables relates that Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men, thinking that single men made better soldiers. Valentine, a priest, thinking the decree was unjust, defied the Emperor and continued to marry young couples in secret. Once his actions were discovered, he was put to death.

Another tells of him helping Christians escape cruel Roman prisons where they were routinely tortured. When Valentine was imprisoned in a jail, he sent a secret message to his love, signing it ‘from your Valentine’ and initiating the trend still in use today. Valentine greetings were popular in the Middles Ages, the oldest on record in any language was written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife whilst he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt:

I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.

Well might I have suspected
That such a destiny,
Thus would have happened this day,
How much that Love would have commanded.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.

Despite the inconsistent stories and multiple martyrs named Valentine, all are based on a heroic and chivalrous figure. Celebrate and commemorate the most romantic day of the year with a special piece of antique or vintage jewellery from Berganza.

Heart shaped Ceylon sapphire and diamond ring hatton garden
Heart shaped Ceylon sapphire and diamond ring, English, circa 1920.
Ref: 22970
Cushion shape old mine diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Edwardian 10.07 carats old mine diamond solitaire ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 25556
Victorian garnet diamond double heart ring berganza hatton garden
Victorian garnet and diamond double heart ring, circa 1870.
Ref: 19460
front view gold posy ring berganza hatton garden
Gold posy ring 'My heart and eye until I die', circa 18th century.
Ref: 19980
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Updated 27/06/2022 at 5:33PM

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