February 14, 270: According to tradition, Valentine, a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II, is beheaded along the Flaminian Way. One explanation for Valentine's subsequent relationship to the romantic holiday is this: Claudius, seeking to more easily recruit soldiers, removed family ties by forbidding marriage. Valentine ignored the order and performed secret marriages—an act that led to his arrest and execution.
February 14, 869: Cyril, "apostle to the Slavs," dies. Creator of the Cyrillic alphabet (still used in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and elsewhere), translator of the Scriptures into Slavonic, and bishop, he worked with his brother, Methodius, who carried on the missionary work for another 15 years (see issue 54: Eastern Orthodoxy).
February 14, 1760: Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is born. The first African-American ordained by the Methodist church, Allen also a co-founded the Free African Society, America's first organization founded by blacks for blacks (see issue 62: Bound For Canaan).
July 5, 1439: Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics sign the Decree of Union at the Council of Florence, creating an official union between the two churches. Popular sentiment in Constantinople opposed the decree, and when the Turks captured the city, the union ceased. However, the council's definition of doctrine and its principles of church union (unity of faith, diversity of rite) have proved useful in subsequent church talks (see issue 54: Eastern Orthodoxy).