Could Saint Valentine be buried in Almeria?

THERE is a local legend that Saint Valentine was born in Almeria, Alberto Cerezuela examines the theory in his book ‘Enigmas and Legends of Almeria’. The ‘real’ Saint Valentine was most probably one of three martyrs named Valentinus who lived at the end of the third century in Rome, when Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire and soldiers were not allowed to marry for fear it would impair their performance in battle.

Legend has it that a priest named Valentine secretly married soldiers with their loved ones.

Emperor Claudius II, who governed from 268 to 270AD met with the priest, hoping to befriend him, but Valentine attempted to convert the emperor who then ordered that he be captured and tortured.

A lieutenant to the Governor of Rome, Asterius, was given the job, and he challenged Valentine to make his blind daughter see again. When Valentine did this, Asterius was so grateful that he converted.

However, Claudius II was so angry he ordered that Valentine be killed and he spent his last days in prison, where Asterius’s daughter brought him food. It is possible that the two fell in love, and the martyr allegedly left a letter for the girl, signed ‘from your Valentine’.

He was killed on February 14 and his remains were taken to the Basilica de Terni, in Italy.

In 1965, when Almeria cathedral’s archives were being sorted, documents were found proving that a martyr named Valentine, which was taken from the Roman catacombs in the 18th century, and declared authentic by Rome in 1779, was given to the cathedral.

In 1782, when the archdeacon of Almeria died, he donated the body, blood and relics of Saint Valentine to the cathedral and were on show for everyone to see for many years, with celebrations being held every year on February 14.

Although the remains disappeared during the war, it is believed they may have been buried in the gardens.

On February 14, 1965, celebrations were held, and a monument to Saint Valentine in the Parque Jose Antonio was blessed by the vicar. However, in 1969, the Church banned celebrations for Saint Valentine’s Day, although some local celebrations remained.

The other two who could be the ‘real’ Saint Valentine are a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), or a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

However, it is more than likely that the one in Almeria is not the patron saint of lovers who died in Rome on February 14, but one of the others of the same name (there are 14 documented in total).

Lovers in the province shouldn’t despair though, as it is said that those who drink from a small fountain at Almeria city’s Puerta de Purchena will soon marry.

By Jennifer Leighfield

Adaptation and translation by Jennifer M. Leighfield, from Alberto Cerezuela, Enigmas y Leyendas de Almeria, Ed. Circulo Rojo, 6th edition, May 2009.

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