Europe Travel

Wandering Through History: The Skull of Saint Valentine

Visit the beautiful, medieval Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin and you can view the skull of St. Valentine (or possibly the skull of a different St. Valentine). There were many St. Valentine’s throughout history but the one people celebrate in honor of today could be the patron recognized by the Roman Catholic Church who died around 270 AD.


There is one possibility that St. Valentine was a Catholic bishop of Terni martyred by Claudius II. The bishop was imprisoned and beheaded for converting people to Christianity. But then there’s the priest during the Roman Empire who was beheaded for secretly helping Christians who were being persecuted at the time.



The priest also held secret wedding ceremonies during the reign of Claudius II. Why were marriage ceremonies and engagements held secret at that time? Roman Emperor Claudius II was having a hard time recruiting soldiers and felt they became weak and didn’t join the military because they didn’t want to leave their wives so he banned marriages.


When St. Valentine went against Claudius II’s orders he was imprisoned and martyred on February 14, thus how we got the date for Valentine’s Day. It is said that he was beaten, stoned and decapitated. That sounds like a completely different picture compared to what people do for Valentine’s Day. It is a day of celebrating love in honor of the life of the martyred patron. Some people say both Valentine’s I mentioned above were actually the same person, maybe they’re right?


If you visit the basilica there is a flower crowned skull of the saint that the world celebrates with hearts, flowers and chocolates. Whoever is THE St. Valentine, I have a feeling all of the kind gestures and expressions of love every February 14 will continue to stick around. I wonder what St. Valentine would say about that? Don’t just visit to view the skull, the basilica is amazing too!


TIP: You should also stick your hand in the  Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth) and see if you can tell a lie in front of your honey without getting your hand bitten off!

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day? Comment below!

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