(Note: Those who are arriving because of their copy of the LDotFMotNY letter are invited to begin their journey here.)
In my freshmen classes today we are making up histories for one or all of those elusive Valentines. To demonstrate how this could be done, I wrote the following stories as a sort of performance art--as I typed, the story was projected upon a screen in the front of the class.
St. Valentine of Constantinople
born 523 in Constantinople
died 548 at a crossroads outside Constantinople
When St. Valentine was born, his parents called him Peter Valentine after his uncle Valentine and that Christian guy Peter. Peter was interested in Christianity because of that and became a Christian himself. When he was twenty, he became a priest and started marrying Christians to each other. All the Christian kids liked Peter and his wedding services became the hot thing in Constantinople and there was a waiting list seven months long. The authorities heard about it and didn’t like what they heard. After all, in these days Christians were good for only one thing: Lion Chow.
So they arrested poor Peter and locked him up. They did not understand, however, just how popular he was among the kids of Constantinople. Before they realized there was any risk, all the marriage-hungry teenagers and twenty-somethings broke into Constantinople prison and broke Peter out so he could marry them.
He stayed up for 60 hours straight marrying everybody before the authorities caught up with him. They told him if he did not revoke all the marriages he had performed they would kill him. He said, “Nay, for love is the most important thing in this world of ours.”
Well, that ticked them off. So they grabbed him by the beard and drug him through the streets till his clothes and skin had all worn off and his blood was pooling in the gutter. Then they took him out of town to a small but much traveled crossroad and they all picked up rocks from the side of the road and threw them at him as hard as they could until he was dead. Then they cut him into pieces and buried him right there in the street.
The people whom Peter Valentine had married never forgot him though and in memory of his dismembered body, they made cards that looked like bloody hearts and exchanged them as symbols of their love and of the man who had made it possible for them to lives their lives bound by holy matrimony.
born 552 in Rome
died 639 near Rome
Valentine was born to poor parents in the worst part of Rome. His father was killed in a street fight when Valentine was only ten days old and his mother caught dysentery ten years later.
The orphaned Valentine was adopted into a monastery and raised by monks. Since in those days it was still illegal to be a Christian, the monastery was hidden on a farm outside of Rome. Whenever soldiers happened by, the monks would do all they could to hide the fact that they were in fact Christians—but the rest of the time they were out doing good works and that sort of stuff.
Valentine really got into the whole monk thing. He liked helping out poor people etc. When he turned twenty-five, the other monks put him in charge of all the marriages they performed.
The way it worked was this: two young Christian kids would fall in love and the way things worked, they would have to be married by a monk or they didn’t believe the marriage was real.
By the time Valentine took over the weddings, there were getting to be a lot of Christians in Rome—most of them young people who would soon find themselves coming to the monastery to get married. The legal officials found it suspicious how many people were visiting this “farm” and sent spies to check it out. They found Valentine performing illegal Christian weddings and soon Valentine found Roman soldiers bursting into the farm. They told him to renounce his religion and to revoke the marriages he had performed. He refused and the soldiers dragged him out into the front of the monastery and beheaded him.
After Valentine’s execution, his fellow monks buried him and on the cross they placed at his head they wrote, “He died for love.”