St Valentine: Southwark is the romantic place to be

John Gower resting on his books in Southwark Cathedral

The best place to be with resonance on St Valentine’s Day must be Southwark Cathedral.

It has the splendid tomb of John Gower who was one of the first, if not the first, to write a love poem associating mating birds with 14 February.

His friend Geoffrey Chaucer, who knew Southwark well, wrote about love and birds in Parlement of Foules but was he inspired by Gower?

It’s not clear who was first.

Chaucer refers to ‘seint valentynes day of the parlement of briddes’ at the very end of The Canterbury Tales.

Appropriately, John Gower in the cathedral is today wearing a lovely red dress.

If you are starting your pilgrimage this morning you should include him in your list of what to look at before leaving Southwark.

But if you are leaving from Winchester Cathedral you could pause as you pass through nearby Hyde Abbey where St Valentine’s head was an attraction for over four hundred years until 1539.

Romantic classics

Tonight’s Valentine’s Piano Recital by candlelight at 7.30pm in Southwark Cathedral includes Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and other romantic classic. Tickets from £15.

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