Setting out on the Pilgrims’ Way you will find a St Valentine connection at both Winchester and London’s Southwark.
On the edge of Winchester the path passes through the remains of Hyde Abbey where one of the attractions was the head of St Valentine.
The relic was given in 1041 by Jumièges Abbey in Normandy to Queen Emma of Normandy who a year later presented the head to Winchester.
For centuries 14 February was an important date in the Hyde Abbey liturgical calendar.
Hyde Abbey also owned The Tabard Inn in Southwark’s Borough High Street and Professor Andy Kelly of the University of California suggests that a St Valentine’s Day Mass would have been said in the Tabard Inn chapel.
Nearby Southwark Cathedral has the magnificent tomb of John Gower who ghosted some of the Canterbury tales for his friend Geoffrey Chaucer.
Chaucer refers to ‘seint valentynes day of the parlement of briddes’ in The Canterbury Tales.
Which one first wrote of birds choosing mating partners on St Valentine’s Day is a matter of debate.
But Professor Kelly suggests that they were looking to a St Valentine’s Day then observed in Genoa during May.
Queen Emma’s bones survive in one of the chests above the quire in Winchester Cathedral.