But the origins of his cult seem to have come later, in the fifth century. Traditionally, his feast day falls on the ides of February, which had traditionally been the date of the Lupercalia, the pagan festival which celebrated the Lupa, the she-wolf who had nurtured Rome’s founders, the orphans Romulus and Remus.In antiquity, the Lupercalia was a bawdy festival, at which the sons of senatorial families would dress in goat-skins and run round the city’s ancient walls, lashing the female spectators lined along their route with special whips made from the goat-skins. These lashings were meant to confer fertility on the girls and women. But in a letter to the Roman Senator Andronicus, the early medieval Pope Gelasius (492-96) called for the Lupercaila to be banned, arguing that it was a vestige of paganism that did not good to the morals of Rome’s youth.
Scholars believe that it was around that time that the legend of Valentine was written, and it seems likely that in Rome at least, his cult was understood as a replacement for the older Roman festival.
It was not until the late middle ages that Valentine himself became associated with earthly love – evidently Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls is the first source which remembers him in this light. But it seems fitting that the ides of February are again a day to celebrate love.