St. Valentine

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St. Valentine, the Italian love


Terni is a very popular town on St. Valentine’s Day. You may ask why, in case you don’t know already. It’s easy: Terni is the town of St. Valentine, the patron Saint of the town of lovers. In the cathedral dedicated to him, his tomb is very much visited by many worshippers and lovers from all over the world.

 But let’s sort it out first. The lovers’ day is on February the 14th but Terni is a romantic city every single month of the year and it is visited by engaged people, married couples and lovers who ask for a special blessing. The story of this tradition is mixed with legends although the most probable one has do with Sabino’s (a pagan legionary) love for Serapia, a Christian girl who lived in Terni. Like history and literature often teach, the two lovers were opposed by their families since they belonged to different religions so they asked the Bishop for help and he allowed them to stay together “forever”.

Another legend goes that Valentine heard two litigious lovers and he went towards them and offered them a rose and the two lovers magically made up. Another interesting story is about the Saint who was jailed and sentenced to martyrdom, he sent to some youngsters a heart-shaped card with the key to get into his house so that they could keep on staying in his garden. Nowadays, inside the cathedral that was built on the remains of a medieval temple and that is enriched with decorations dating back to the XVIIIth century you can see the St. Valentine’s well: plenty of love letters coming from all over the world are collected here. Moreover, throughout the whole month of February the Saint is celebrated in the town and plenty of exhibitions, conventions and contests about “love” are held. Many initiatives are also related to a number of historical facts and specifically to the celebration held on February the 15th in the ancient Rome in honour of Fauno and Luperco, connected with the purification of the soil and the rituals of fertility.

 These ceremonies were forbidden by the emperor Augustus since they were considered licentious although they didn’t actually disappeared. Then the Church replaced them with the ritual of St. Valentine as the protector of lovers willing to get married. In the third millennium St. Valentine’s day started to be featured by a religious function held in the cathedral that is conducted by the Bishop followed by a solemn procession, the traditional fair, a torchlight parade and amazing fireworks in the evening.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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