Will the real St Valentine please step forward? – A look at the BHL

Valentine’s Day has just passed.  In honour of the day, I thought that it would be interesting to look in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina vol. 2, and see what it says about saints named “Valentinus”.

Rather to my astonishment, Abbyy Finereader 14 seems to be very good at OCRing Latin.  So here it is:

  • Valentinus presb. Ecclesiolae prope Molismum, ante med. saec. V. — Iul. 4.

Vita. Inc. B. Valentinus in Laticensi suburbano Lingonensium oriundus — Des. facile intelligatur. [8457

Act. SS. Iul. II. 41-42.
Exc. Bouquet, III. 410-11.

  • Valentinus ep. Ianuensis, saec. IV in. — Mai 2.

1. Vita. Inc. B. Valentinus, bonae indolis puer — Des. sine quo nullus nostrum esse potest, ipso adiuvante… Amen. [8458

Act. SS. Mai VII. 544; 3a ed. 535-36.

2. Inventio, elevatio, miracula. Inc. Huius talis ac tanti V~i praesulis, unde superius — Des. praesentem sentiret. Hoc quoque ad laudem et gloriam Christi… Amen. [8459

Act. SS. t. c. 544-46; 3a ed. 536-37.
Exc. Ughelli, IV. 1151-54; 2a ed. 837-38.

  • Valentinus ep. Interamnensis, m. Romae, sub Claudio. — Febr. 14.

1. Vita. Inc. Propheta loquitur ad Deum… Unde b. vir Interamnensis ep. — Des. a s. Abundio non longe a corpore s. V~i sunt sepulti, collaudantes Dnm… Amen. [8460

Mombritius, II. 343-44; || Surius, I (1570), 984-86; (1576), 1014-16; II (1618), 145-46; II (1875), 349-52; || Act. SS. Febr.II. 756-57; 3a ed. 757-58.

2. Epitome.

Petrus de Nat. iii. 122.

3. Translatio capitis Gemmeticum et miracula auct. Baldrico ep. Dolensi. Inc. prol. Qualiter bb. V~i caput Gemmeticum usque — Inc. Quidam qui sacerdotio fungebatur — Des. ab infirmitate illa curatus sanus egressus est. [8461

Act. SS. t. c. 758-62; 3a ed. 759-63; || P.L. CLXVI. 1153-64.

  • Valentinus ep. Raetiarum (al. ep. Pataviensis), saec. V. — Ian. 7.

1. Vita et translatio. Inc. In civitate Pataviensi inventum est sub nostro aevo — Des. ubi adhuc plurima fiunt miracula, quae facit… Amen. Celebratur autem festum etc. etc… [8462

Act. SS. Ian. 1. 1094-97; 3a ed. 728-33. — (Mut.) Surius, IV (1573), 474-477; (1579), 506-9; VIII (1618), 43-45; || Act. SS. t. c. 369-72.
Exc. Reschius, Annales eccl. Sabionensis, 282-86, 290 (partim ex libello genuino, partim ex Surio).

2. Epitome.

Bartholomaeus Tridentinus, Gesta Sanctorum (Lutolf, in Theologische Quartalschrift, LXIII, Tübingen, 1881, 469).

  • Valentinus presb. m. Romae, sub Claudio. — Febr. 14.

1. Passio. Inc. Tempore quo persequebatur Claudius Christianos, tenuit quendam presbyterum — Des. a) et sepelivit in eodem loco ubi decollatus est. [8463

vel β) ubi decollatus est, accipiens coronam vitae quam repromisit Deus diligentibus se. [8464

vel γ) diligentibus se. Ibi postea a Iulio papa fabricata est ecclesia… usque in hodiernum diem. [8465

Act. SS. Febr, II. 753-54; 3a ed. 754-55. — Excerpta est haec Passio ad verbum ex Passione SS. Marii, Marthae et soc. In quibusdam codicibus, servatis etiam primis verbis cap. 6 Passionis SS. Marii etc., Passio Valentini inc. “ Tunc tenuit Claudius quendam ven. virum…, [8466.

In aliis codicibus tamquam Passio S. Valentini profertur vel integra, vel paene integra Passio SS. Marii etc.

2. Epitomae.

Leg. aurea, c. 42. — Petrus de Nat. III. 123.

  • Valentinus ep. Terracinensis et Damianus eius diae., mm. in territorio Teatino, + sub Iuliano. — Mart. 16.

Passio et inventio.

I. Passio. Inc. Temporibus Magni Constantini piissimi imp. erat quidam vir — Des. usque in hodiernum diem. Passi sunt autem… Amen. [8467

II. Inventio, translatio, miracula. Inc. Postquam divina ordinatione — Des. Deum et ss. mm. eius V-um et D-um glorificavit. [8468

Ughelli, VII. 1351-60 ; 2a ed. I. 1284-89; || Act. SS. Mart. II. 428-31; 3a ed. 423-26: || Contator (D. A.), De historia Terracinensi (Romae, 1706), 493-502.

Exc. (ipsa pars ii) Act. SS. Mai III. 569-70 (3a ed. 566-67), n. 3 et 5.

  • Valentinus et Hilarius mm. Viterbii, sub Maximiano. — Nov. 3.

1. Passio,

a. Inc. Temporibus illis, quo Maximianus augustus regnavit post obitum patris sui Diocletiani augusti, ipso tempore interfecit sororem suam — Des. Qui ita martyr Christi effectus est in Dno N. I. C… Amen. [8469

Appendix. Inc. Supradictorum vero mm. corpora — Des. de Roma adduxerat; cuius… celebratur m kal. ian., ad laudem… Amen. [8470

Act. SS. Nov. I. 626-29, col. 1. — (Mut.) Nardinus (N.), Acta ss. mm. Valentini praesbyteri et Hilarii diaconi (Viterbii, 1684), 7-11; || Pennazzi (S. A.), Vita dei glorioso S. Eutizio (Montefiascone, 1721), 324-28; || Andreucci (A. Gir.), Notizie istoriche de gloriosi ss. Valentino prete ed Ilario diacono (Roma, 1740), 61-64; || Bussi (F.), Istoria delta citta di Viterbo (Roma, 1742), 444-45; || Assemani (I. S.), De SS. Ferentinis in Tuscia Bonifacio etc. (Romae, 1745), 169-72.

Exc. (ex libello genuino) Act. SS. Mai III. 459 (3a ed. 457-58), n. 4. — Pennazzi, t. c. 339-40. — Andreucci, t. c. 44-46, 56-57.

b. Inc. Tempore quo Maximianus augustus regnabat, misit edictum — Des. Qui inventus martyr effectus est in I. C. Dno N… Amen. [8471

Appendix. Inc. ut in 1a. — Des. de Roma addux., ad laudem… [8472

Andreucci, t. c. 51-55; || Bibl. Casin. III. Floril. 158-60; || Act. SS. Nov. I. 626-29, col. 2.

2. Epitome. Inc. ut 1b. — Des. et sepulti sunt in locum qui vocatur Cavillarius. [8473

Pennazzi, t. c. 333-35; || Andreucci, t. c. 48-49; || Act. SS. t. c. 625.

3. Inventio saec. XIV in. Inc. Gloriosus Deus in sanctis suis — Des. fidei postulantium impendebat, ad laudem… Amen. [8474

Act. SS. t. c. 632-34.

My what a lot of abbreviations!  For the newcomer, a couple of important ones.

  • Act. SS. is of course the Acta Sanctorum. This is organised into months, and then by the saint’s feast day date.  So saints related to Feb. 14 is in the “February volume 2” volume.
  • Inc = Incipit and Des = Desinit – the opening and closing words of the text.  Texts in manuscripts don’t tend to come with identifiers, so the start and end is useful.
  • The number after the bracket, “[8474”, is the reference number.  Refer to your chosen saint and the specific text about him as “BHL 8474”.

So… there are a bunch of saints here, commemorated on various days.

Only two of these are celebrated on Valentine’s Day, February 14th; Valentinus of Interramna (two texts, BHL 8460, 8461), and Valentinus of Rome (BHL 8466).  The rest we are not concerned with here.

Well, once we have the BHL number, we can do some useful Googling!  And … by golly it is useful!

It turns out that there was a conference in Terni (=Interramna) back in 2010, and the papers were published as M.Bassetti & E.Menestò, San Valentino e il suo culto tra medioevo ed età contemporanea: uno status quaestionis (Terni, 9-11 dicembre 2010), CISAM: Spoleto 2012, 368 pp.[1]  This includes a paper by Edoardo D’Angelo with a critical edition of BHL 8460![2]  There is another paper with a description of the manuscript tradition.  Sadly none of this is online, and I don’t have any access to it at the moment, but I know where a copy can be found.  Clearly I need to look at this.

The search also reminded me of the marvellous Cult of the Saints in Late Antiquity database.  They have a page with all the data on Valentine of Rome here; and another on Valentine of Interramna here.  There is even a summary of the content pf BHL 8460 here.  All of this is massively useful.

But the most useful item that I found was a page in Walter Pohl &c, Transformations of Romanness: Early Medieval Regions and Identities, ., p.200-201.  This is worth reproducing as a handy summary of the Valentine material:

The earliest hagiographic text associated with a city within the duchy of Spoleto is dedicated to St Valentine, martyr and bishop of the church of Terni. Already known to Bede who borrowed from it in his Martyrology, the Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460) was written between the late sixth and the early eighth century.13 The existence of two different Valentines, one celebrated in BHL 8460 as the bishop of Terni and the other, a Roman presbyter, mentioned in the Passio sanctorum Marii, Marthae et filiorum (BHL 5543), still makes it difficult to assess who the ‘original’ Valentine was and where he was first venerated.14* However, the existence of two cults and two distinct hagiographic traditions hints at two different centres of promotion belonging to two separate ecclesiastical and political spaces: the episcopal city of Terni in the Spoletan duchy on the one hand, and Rome on the other.15

The entire narrative of the Passio Valentini (BHL 8460) takes place in Rome. The city as described by the anonymous hagiographer is an imperial capital with a strong cultural appeal: three noble students from Athens reach Rome to complete their education in Latin and, in order to do so, they choose magister Craton, an orator practising both in Greek and Latin (orator utriusque linguae). After witnessing the miraculous healing of the young scolasticus Cerimon at the hands of Valentine, the three Athenian students decide to give up on their education in human wisdom (studia humanae sapientiae) and to engage in spiritual studies (spiritalibus studiis) because, as the saint had reminded them, ‘worldly wisdom is deemed foolish in the eyes of God’ (sapientia mundi stulta est apud Deum).16 A multitude of students and the son of the prefectus urbi also publicly adhere to the Christian faith. The outraged senators then proceed to arrest Valentine, who is tortured and eventually beheaded at the order of the city prefect. His body is brought back to Terni by the Athenians who are themselves captured by the consularis Lucentius, sentenced to death and buried close to the saint.

[13] Emore Paoli, “La ‘Passio sancti Valentini’ (BHL 8460)”, in Bassetti 2012, 177. For the edition of the text see Passio sancti Valentini martyris, ed. D’Angelo, 211-222. Details from the text are recorded in the manuscript that has been acknowledged as the closest witness to Bede’s original martyrology (St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek 451,15-17).

[14] In the early Middle Ages, Valentine was commemorated on the same day in a basilica near Terni and in a sanctuary close to Rome, both located on the Via Flaminia. This would suggest that the same saint was at the origin of two cults, cf. Claudia Angelelli, “Roma o Interramna Nahars? Le più antiche testimonianze del culto di S. Valentino e il problema della “priorità””, in Bassetti 2012, p.127-158. Online at academia.edu here.

[15] Susi 2012, 291-299. = Eugenio Susi, “Il culto di san Valentino in Italia nel medioevo”, in the same volume.

[16] Passio sancti Valentini martyris, ed. D’Angelo, 218.

This summary again indicates the importance of the Bassetti volume.

Searching Google books for BHL 8460 brought up massive numbers of manuscript library catalogues, all in snippet view.  It’s clear that this Life of St Valentine appears in collections of Saints’ lives (Vitae Sanctorum) or “Legendaries”, in library after library.  An online manuscript is Paris latin 18305, details at the BNF here, and a monochrome set of images here, life on foll. 63-66v.  It starts thus, clearly with red lettering:

There are undoubtedly others online, if I looked further.

What I learn from today’s effort is the importance of the BHL for looking into Saints’ Lives.  A Google search is futile until you have the BHL number.

  1. [1]For sale at a “modest” 60 euros from the publisher here: there is also a lengthy description of the contents
  2. [2]“La Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460-8460b). Un ‘martirio occulto’ d’età postcostantiniana?”.  It’s on pp.179-222.