7 religious ties to Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is celebrated annually with chocolate and flowers and romantic gestures between lovers.

But some historians suggest the Hallmark-driven holiday commemorates the execution of the holy Roman priest, Valentine, on Feb. 14, 278 A.D. He was posthumously sainted.

During the reign of Emperor Claudius II, attempting to build a bachelor army, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome, believing men would be more willing to join ranks if they didn't have attachments to families and wives.

Valentine defied Claudius' law, however, and continued performing underground marriages for young lovers.

When Valentine's crimes were discovered, he was imprisoned, where legend suggests that he met a woman in prison, perhaps one of the jailer's daughters, and left her a goodbye note signed, "From your Valentine."

Though it is historically unclear which St. Valentine the holiday exactly derived from - there are three different St. Valentine or Valentinus martyrs mentioned in the Catholic Encyclopedia under February 14 - it is certain that religion and spirituality were associated with the early origins of Valentine's Day.

Below are seven things you didn't know about the religious ties to Valentine's Day.

1. Other historical accounts of Valentine's Day allege the Christian church decided to place St. Valentine's feast day in the middle of February to "Christianize" the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia.

2. Lupercalia celebrated the ides of February, or Feb. 15, and was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

3. Members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, began the festival at a sacred cave where the priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification.

4. The priests would strip the goat's hide, dip them in sacrificial blood gently slap both Roman women and crop fields with the goat hide, which women believed would make them more fertile.

5. When Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine's Day, Lupercalia was outlawed at the end of the 5th century and deemed un-Christian.

6. By the Middle Ages, Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France.

7. The three recorded martyred St. Valentines listed under the date of Feb. 14: One was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna, now Terni, Italy, and the third was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

Source: History.com; AmericanCatholic.org