Rome and Romance on Valentine’s Day

Romance permeates the very fabric of the city of Rome. From the edges of the Circus Maximus …

rome, italy, forum, circus maximus, romance, love, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

… to graffiti on the Aventine …

rome, italy, aventine, graffiti, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

… everywhere you look, love really is all around.

rome, italy, romance, rose seller, spanish steps, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

So it is perfectly fitting that the tradition known as Valentine’s Day should have its origins here in the Eternal City. While there have been about a dozen St. Valentines, and even a Pope Valentine, the chap we celebrate every February 14th is St. Valentine of Rome. The legend surrounding his martyrdom is as follows.

It was around 270 AD and Rome was under the rule of Claudius the Cruel – that doesn’t bode well, does it? Claudius was trying to build up his army but was having a hard time recruiting soldiers. He came to the conclusion that men were unwilling to enlist because of their attachment to their wives and families, so to solve the problem, he passed a decree banning all future marriages and engagements in Rome.

Valentine, a temple priest, found this decree dreadfully unfair and decided to defy Claudius, presiding over secret wedding ceremonies for young Roman lovers. Naturally enough, he was discovered and incarcerated. While he was in prison, legend tells that he fell for the gaoler’s daughter and when he was taken from his cell to be beheaded, on that fateful February 14th, he left a note for her, signed ‘from your Valentine’.

Wander down to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin and after you have stuck your hand in the Bocca della Verita (if you dare!) take a look inside the beautiful little basilica.

chiesa santa maria in cosmedin, la bocca della verita, mouth of truth, roman holiday, italy, rome, travel, travelogue, photography, ailsa prideaux-mooney

There, in a tiny glass case, you will find the sad, flower-adorned skull of poor old Valentine.

St Valentine's skull, Rome, Italy, Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, bocca della verita, mouth of truth, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Happy Valentine’s Day.

xxx Ailsa

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About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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32 Responses to Rome and Romance on Valentine’s Day

  1. Oh, I had no idea that this was the origin of Valentine’s Day. Really quite sad…but love still triumphed.

  2. aj vosse says:

    Kiss a mouth like that?? No thank you!! 😉

  3. ardysez says:

    I’ve never heard that before and am very glad to know this is not just a Hallmark fabricated tradition.

  4. ailsapm says:

    Hallmark has certainly cornered the market though. 😉

  5. Pingback: Rome and Romance on Valentine’s Day | Donna's Blog

  6. dyule2014 says:

    Thank you Happy Valentine for you Your site it beautiful

  7. Fun holiday themed post. Thank you!

  8. Heyjude says:

    Thank you for sharing this story – though like AJ I wouldn’t fancy kissing that mouth either!

  9. Best Valentine’s Day post I have read! And love your images too.

  10. nowathome says:

    Thanking for telling us the story!!

  11. Sas says:

    Somebody asked me the other day why we celebrate St Valentines Day. I didn’t know the answer, but now thanks to you I can tell them 🙂

  12. Nice post, I especially like the skull! In Mexico it’s called the “Day of Love and Friendship,” which includes much more than just romantic love.

  13. Nato says:

    So glad you shared this story. Very interesting!

  14. pinaysaeuropa says:

    I like everything except the photo of the skull but its only because i fear dead people… haha happy valentines! 🙂

  15. 2000detours says:

    Nothing says romance like a skull. Loved it!

  16. The rose shot is wonderful (But the skull is a bit macabre with the flowers – gold case or not)

  17. restlessjo says:

    Oh, shame!!! Not much a reward for being a nice guy 😦
    I was at Carnaval in the Algarve on Valentine’s Day. A slightly surreal but very enjoyable setting 🙂

  18. dyule2014 says:

    Thank you updating Word Press

Comments are closed.