The “Acts” of Saint Valentine are of medieval origin (6th-7th centuries), and are historically unreliable. The name Valentine was popular in antiquity, as it is derived from the word valens, meaning “worthy.”
Over time, the feast grew in popularity and, eventually, began to be associated with love and lovers. Some scholars have speculated that the association with romantic love on Valentine’s Day is related to customs associated with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which fell in mid-February. Others believe that the connection of Saint Valentine’s Day to romance relates to the natural season in which the feast falls (e.g. folk wisdom held that birds mated on February 14th). However, medieval scholar Jack Oruch, in the July 1981 issue of Speculum (Journal of Medieval Studies), makes a strong case that the Saint Valentine’s Day connection to love and romance derives solely from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules. Even though Chaucer connects the romantic overtones of Saint Valentine’s Day to ancient customs, Oruch effectively argues that no such traditions existed before Chaucer’s time. Thus, modern research suggests it is unlikely that secular Saint Valentine’s Day customs are pagan practices derived from the Roman Lupercalia.
image:Saint Valentine of Terni and his disciples. Codex: Français 185, Fol. 210. Vies de saints, France, Paris, 14th century