Monday, February 13, 2017

Saint Valentine: The Movie Script

Dear George, 
Although Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since 496 A.D., almost nothing is known about the original St. Valentine himself.  Historians do know his name, that he was martyred on February 14 around the year 270 A.D., and that he was initially buried on the Flaminian Way north of Rome.  That’s about it for verified facts.  However, there are a number of myths and legends about St. Valentine, most of which appeared in church writings over the next 1200 years.  If you put all those legends together, the story of St. Valentine has the definite makings of a blockbuster movie.  Here is my outline for a script.*

Valentine was the Bishop of Interamna (modern-day Terni) in central Italy in the third century.  On a temporary visit to Rome in 273 he was imprisoned by the evil emperor Claudius who was engaged in persecuting Christians.  In violation of Roman law, Valentine had been aiding Christians to escape from prison and marrying Christian couples so that the husbands would not have to go to war in Claudius’ army.  Surprisingly, the emperor took a liking to his priestly prisoner.  However, Valentine refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods and instead attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity.  In response, Claudius demanded that Valentine renounce his beliefs or be executed.  When Valentine proved unwavering in his faith, Claudius condemned him to death.  In the days before his execution, Valentine, through his prayers, restored the sight of the blind daughter of his jailer, Asterius.  Asterius was so amazed and grateful that he converted to Christianity on the spot.  Valentine had fallen in love with the daughter who had been visiting him in the jail.  On the day of his execution, Feb. 14, 273, Valentine left her a note that was signed, “From your Valentine” (this being, of course, the first Valentine card).   He was initially beaten with clubs and stoned.  When that failed to kill the valiant priest, Valentine was decapitated by Roman soldiers and buried at a nearby cemetery along the Flaminian Way.  Several nights later his disciples dug up his body and returned him to Interamna.  St. Valentine’s skull is on display today in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, and other remains are located in Poland, France, Austria, Malta, and Scotland.  We know St. Valentine as the patron saint of lovers, beekeeping, epilepsy, and the plague.

This story, of course, has all the ingredients of a Best Picture winner at the Oscars: romance, suspense, villainy, violence, faith, soldiers, heroism, even a miracle.  It would be particularly moving if set to music and directed by Damien Chazelle of La La Land fame.  Actually Ryan Gosling could be Valentine, and Emma Stone would be perfect as the jailer’s daughter.  I would cast Johnny Depp as the Emperor Claudius.  I don’t know if Hollywood will follow up and make this movie, but, even if they don’t, it’s still enlightening to resurrect the plot line on this special holiday.

*SOURCES:, “St. Valentine”;, “St Valentine, the Real Story”;, “History of Valentine’s Day”;, “6 Surprising Facts About St. Valentine”;, “Saint Valentine” 

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