Saint Valentine

St. Valentine: Patron Saint of Epilepsy

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The celebration in honor of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine, takes on greater meaning when you consider he is also the patron saint of epilepsy—a common neurological condition that causes seizures and affects nearly 3 million children and adults in the United States.

Medicine and religion have long been intertwined; however, medical practitioners were sometimes regarded skeptically in medieval times causing people to seek spiritual intervention for their illnesses. In addition, brain disorders in the 14th and 15th centuries were widely regarded as supernatural phenomena incited by evil spirits or the devil. Because many people believed their symptoms were the work of dark spiritual forces, it made sense for them to combat their perceived tormenters with an antidote to evil in the form of saints—in particular patron saints—who were believed to have restorative abilities for specific ailments.


Information on the origins of St. Valentine’s connection to epilepsy differs. Some accounts suggest he is connected to epilepsy because the name Valentine is similar to the German word for “fallen.” Epilepsy was once known as the “falling sickness” because some seizures caused a person to lose consciousness and fall. Still other legends propose that a 3rd century bishop named Valentine von Terni freed the son of a Roman orator from an epileptic seizure. The good news is, medical research and an increasing variety of scientifically proven therapies have improved the lives of many people living with epilepsy, significantly diminishing the need to turn to supernatural forces for respite!

So, in the wake of this Valentine’s Day, when all the sugar-coated, floral-scented hype has passed, remember that Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers. Today, medical research, an increasing variety of scientifically proven therapies, and programs and events like the National Walk for Epilepsy are helping to raise awareness and help people with epilepsy live to their fullest potential.