Of both lovers and epilepsy

Saint Valentine is the patron saint of both lovers and epilepsy – sadly, a little known fact.

There is one wonderful example of this divine coupling, however, where the passionate saint appears alongside EEG traces on 1998 postage stamp from Italy.

This description is from a brief 2003 article from the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry on the stamp.

EEG has been illustrated on a number of stamps. An Italian stamp of 1988 shows a pictorial representation of an EEG and St Valentine (Stanley Gibbons no. 1989, Scott no. 1743). St Valentine was the first bishop of Temi in Umbria. Some of the mythology is not entirely clear, but St Valentine was probably a physician who was martyred by the Romans on February 14, 273. He is patron saint of both lovers and epilepsy. There are also other patron saints of epilepsy.

Legend has it that St Valentine miraculously cured a young fiancee, Serapia, afflicted with a mysterious illness, thought now to be epilepsy. Sites where St Valentine was thought to have lived or visited became pilgrimage destinations for cure of the disorder. These destinations included Rome and Temi in Italy, Ruffach in France (where a hospital for epilepsy was later built), Poppel in Belgium, and Passau in Germany. Soon after Valentine’s death young lovers started making pilgrimages to Temi to be blessed by the Bishop on the 14th hour of every month for eternal love.

It’s worth noting that this recounts the traditional story of Saint Valentine although the actual history seems a little fuzzy and there were likely many historical people who have been blended into the image of the love-promoting holy man.

However, this also makes Valentine’s Day the day of both love and epilepsy, or as I like to think of it, lovers with epilepsy.

Link to JNNP article on epilepsy and Valentine stamp.

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