Introduction‎ > ‎

Previous Window Displays

Our Window Display for  January / February 2018

Our January / February  2018 window display told the story of St Valentine’s Day.

The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia was a fertility celebration that was observed annually between 13th and 15th February.  In 269 AD single Roman men were drafted into the Roman army so many men got married in order to avoid this. As a result Emperor Claudius II of Rome forbade Roman men to get engaged or marry. Claudius also ordered all Romans to worship the state’s religious icons, and outlawed Christianity.

A Christian priest, Valentinus continued to practise his beliefs and performed secret marriages. He was arrested and even attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity which angered Claudius II even further and he sentenced Valantinus to death.

While in prison, awaiting his execution, it is said Valentinus was approached by his jailor, Asterius, who had a blind daughter, Julia. Catholic legend states that Valentinus performed a miracle and restored her sight, and they became very close.

Just before the execution, Valentinus asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to Julia "From Your Valentine" and included a yellow crocus, which is often referred to as St Valentine’s flower. Valentinus is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD which has become known as St. Valentine's Day.

The rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed including Lupercalia. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance on February 14th in honour of Roman martyr Saint Valentine.

In 1382 Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his poem Parlement of Foules. This poem contains what is widely reported to be the first recorded instance of St Valentine’s Day being linked to romantic love.


The British Library holds the oldest surviving Valentine’s letter in the English language. This dates from 1477 and was sent by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston. In this letter Margery describes John as her “right well-beloved Valentine”.

By the 17th century Valentine’s Day gets a mention in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when Ophelia is given the lines:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

In the 18th century the most familiar Valentine’s poem made its first appearance. These lines, found in a collection of nursery rhymes printed in 1784, read:

“The rose is red,
the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.”

The first Valentine’s cards were sent in the 18th century. Initially these were handmade efforts, as pre-made cards were not
yet available. Lovers would decorate paper with romantic symbols including flowers and love knots, often including puzzles and lines of poetry. Those who were less inspired could buy volumes that offered guidance on selecting the appropriate words and images to woo their lover. These cards were then slipped secretly under a door, or tied to a door-knocker.

It was in Georgian Britain that pre-printed cards first began to appear, though these were not yet as popular as they were eventually to become. The oldest surviving example dates from 1797.

More pictures from our display are available via this link.

Lostwithiel Museum would like to thank Asquiths Restaurant for sponsoring our Valentine Window.