Saint Valentine was said to have supported young couples in a time when marriage was banned for young men. Emperor Claudius II desperately needed soldiers, not lovers.
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270.
In a time in which marriage was prohibited, he secretly performed marriage ceremonies.
The man was clubbed and beheaded. His body was disinterred and stolen by his followers. They have his skull in a glass reliquary box in Ireland. Gruesome. Not quite the romantic association that I had anticipated. February 14 will never be the same.
Wiki to the rescue to warm my heart when I read:
“Saint Valentine is a widely recognized third-century Roman saint
This is courtly love – breathtaking, romantic and beautiful…It was an experience between erotic desire and spiritual attainment that now seems contradictory as “a love at once illicit and morally elevating, passionate and disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent”. -wiki
Image: Riding couple, mirror case. Ivory with traces of polychromy, Paris, second quarter of the 14th century.
Note: see http://www.altarandthrone.com/st-valentine-the-man-who-died-for-the-sake-of-love/ for a detailed history of St. Valentine.