It is a story steeped in mystery, which may or may not be true. The legend goes that Valentine was a Christian priest at the time of Emperor Claudius II.
This was not a great time to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Worshipers more often found themselves fighting for their lives in the Colosseum than embracing old age. Yet secretly conversions took place and their numbers swelled.
For those rebellious couples wishing to marry within the tenets of their religion and the Church, this era was especially dangerous. Anyone witnessing that could expect a reward for reporting them to the authorities. Moreover, the defiant couple would have to find a priest.
Father Valentine was a courageous man. He officiated over many of these marriages, until he was eventually discovered. Then he was arrested and locked away. There was no mercy from Claudius II. The Emperor ordered the execution of the Christian priest.
Valentine was reputedly stoned and beaten to within an inch of his life. Then he was beheaded, as a warning to all who would follow.
But Christians of the time fought hard for their right to worship according to their own spiritual path. They eventually secured safety for their religion and, in 496 CE, Pope Gelasius I canonized the martyred priest as St Valentine.