Love on Saint Valentine’s Day

Known as the patron saint of lovers, epileptics, and beekeepers, Saint Valentine still plays an important role in our lives today.

Since the Middle Ages, St Valentine’s Day has been known as the date when birds start to pair and mate! This is due to the ‘Fools Spring’ in the middle of the month, when the temperature rises just a few degrees.

Summer migrants such as plovers, snipes and Oystercatchers begin to move from the coast to the uplands.

Who was Saint Valentine- perhaps he was the priest beheaded in 270AD. A common legend states that he defied the Emperor Claudius II’s orders and secretly married couples, to spare the husbands from war

Alternatively, it may have been the Bishop of Terni, also beheaded by Claudius. He was stopped in the act of assisting Christians to escape imprisonment.

According to another legend, St. Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter. He had befriended and healed her from blindness.

The Roman Fertility Festival of Lupercalia took place in the middle of February. The 14th was chosen by the church to Christianise an event, which the Pagans looked forward to. Find out more about the life and times of the Romans in Canterbury.

In 1836, St Valentine’s mortal remains were given to a Carmelite Priest – Father John Spratt, by Pope Gregory XVI. The relics in a black and gold casket were taken to the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar’s Street, Dublin. Visit the church on Valentine’s Day to see his relics!

Valentine’s Day was also a reminder to farmers in the past, to start sowing their spring crops and check their seed harrows are in working order before the Spring arrives!

This is the part of the Fleming Window at St Bartholomew’s Church, Nettlebed, Oxfordshire. Find out more about the window and the church here


St Gregory the Great

Our next Saint is St Gregory whose death we commemorate on 12th March each year. The Second Vatican Council revised the General Roman Calendar in 1969, moving his Feast Day to 3rd September, which was the day of his consecration in 590AD, as of course 12th March falls during Lent.

Pope Gregory 1, also known as Gregory the Great was born around 540AD and died in 604AD

It was Pope Gregory the Great who sent Augustine on a mission to England to convert pagans to Christianity following King Ethelbert’s marriage to a Christian wife – Bertha. Gregory went on to become a very important figure in church history and Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Although Gregory suffered from chronic indigestion and slow fevers, caused by a lifetime of prolonged fasting, he had a huge influence on the doctrine, discipline and organisation of the early Catholic Church.

Gregory is also the Patron Saint of of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.

During his final years, he was also a martyr to gout, a most unpleasant disease of the foot.

St Gregory’s Day used to be remembered as ‘Farmer’s Day’ when the clergy went into the fields to bless the Spring crops.

Depictions of Saint Gregory can be seen in many churches local to Kent such as Wye,, which is dedicated to both St Gregory & St Martin. Gregory is depicted in the West window together with St Martin of Tours either side of Christ in Majesty.

Canterbury Cathedral has two figures on the handsome pulpit in the Nave, with cope and mitre, which represent Augustine of Canterbury shown here on the left and Pope Gregory 1 on the right hand side.

Immanuel Giel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The relics of Saint Gregory are enshrined in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.