via flaminia

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Arch of Augustus

Rimini, Italy

27 BCE


The Arch of Augustus at Rimini was dedicated to the Emperor Augustus by the Roman Senate and is the oldest Roman arch which survives. It signaled the end of the via Flaminia, which connected the cities of Romagna to Rome, and spans the modern Corso d'Augusto (the ancient decumanus maximus), which led to the beginning of another road, the via Emilia, which ran northwest to Piacenza.

 Its style is simple but at the same time solemn. The central arch, which is of exceptional size, is flanked by two engaged columns with fluted shafts and Corinthian capitals. The four clipei (shields) placed next to the capitals each depict Roman divinities: Jupiter and Apollo on the Roman side, Neptune and Roma facing the city of Rimini. The gate’s principal function, aside from functioning as a city gate, was to support the lavish bronze statue of Augustus, depicted driving a quadriga. Follow ClassicalMonuments for a daily ancient treat!

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The Death of Saint Valentine at Milvian Bridge

The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. During his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.

He reportedly died on February 14th (year uncertain) on the Via Flaminia near the Milvian Bridge (aka Ponte Milvio) which spans the Tiber River in northern Rome. According to the official biography of the Diocese of Terni, the year of his death is 273 AD.

The feast of St. Valentine of February 14th was first established in 496 AD by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among all those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God”. As Gelasius implies, nothing was yet known to him about Valentine’s life.

On another note, there was an important battle fought at the bridge in 312 by the Emperor Constantine I (Constantine the Great) and Maxentius. You can read about it here.

Saint Valentine is a widely recognized third-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14 and since the High Middle Ages is associated with a tradition of courtly love.

All that is reliably known of the saint commemorated on February 14 is his name and that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome on that day.    It is uncertain whether St. Valentine is to be identified as one saint or the conflation of two saints of the same name.    Several different martyrologies have been added to later hagiographies that are unreliable.

Because so little is reliably known of him, in 1969 the Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar, leaving his liturgical celebration to local calendars. The Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize him as a saint, listing him as such in the February 14 entry in the Roman Martyrology and authorising liturgical veneration of him on February 14 in any place where that day is not devoted to some other obligatory celebration in accordance with the rule that on such a day the Mass may be that of any saint listed in the Martyrology for that day.   Saint Valentine’s Church in Rome, built in 1960 for the needs of the Olympic Village, continues as a modern, well-visited parish church.

Father Frank O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, tells the story of the man behind the holiday—St. Valentine.

“He was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudias who persecuted the church at that particular time,” Father O’Gara explains. ”   He also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people.   This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.”

“I think we must bear in mind that it was a very permissive society in which Valentine lived,” says Father O’Gara.   “Polygamy would have been much more popular than just one woman and one man living together.    And yet some of them seemed to be attracted to Christian faith. But obviously the church thought that marriage was very sacred between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged.    And so it immediately presented the problem to the Christian church of what to do about this.”

“The idea of encouraging them to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about.    And he secretly married them because of the edict.”

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against command of Emperor Claudius the second.    There are legends surrounding Valentine’s actions while in prison.

“One of the men who was to judge him in line with the Roman law at the time was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind.    He was supposed to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result.”

In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage.    The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter.    He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, “from your Valentine.”

“What Valentine means to me as a priest,” explains Father O’Gara, “is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe.     And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that —even to the point of death.”

Valentine’s martyrdom has not gone unnoticed by the general public.    In fact, Whitefriars Street Church is one of three churches that claim to house the remains of Valentine. Today, many people make the pilgrimage to the church to honour the courage and memory of this Christian saint. Below is the Shrine of St Valentine in Whitefriar Street, Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.