The heart has been seen as one of the most important parts of the human body for a very, very long time. For proof, look no further than the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the heart was the seat of not just emotion but also thought and will. As a result, the ancient Egyptians preserved the heart because it was necessary for the deceased to be judged by the gods of the underworld, though it is amusing to note that they had various spells and talismans to prevent the heart from telling the truth to those who oversaw the process.
With that said, the heart seems to have started turning into one of the most famous symbols of the present in medieval times. In short, the shape of the heart symbol bears some resemblance to a human heart that has been cut open to reveal the four chambers. However, it bears even more resemblance to a bird or reptile heart, which would make sense because the study of anatomy was carried out using animal rather than human bodies in those times.
Even then, it is interesting to note that earlier depictions of the heart came with a rounded base, which didn’t turn into the scalloped shape of the present until a 14th century Italian poem called ‘Documenti d’amore’ that became very popular and thus very influential. One of its illustrations — depicting a naked cupid standing on the back of a galloping horse throwing arrows and roses at bystanders — included hearts. Shortly after its publication, the scalloped heart began appearing in other works of visual art and in tapestries.
How Did the Heart Symbol Become Associated with Valentine’s Day?
As for how the heart became associated with Valentine’s Day and love, well, it was turning into its scalloped shape at around the same time that medieval Europeans were developing notions of love that were more recognizable to us. In short, European contact with the Islamic world resulted in medieval Europeans being influenced by Islamic notions of love, which combined with other sources of inspiration to turn into what we now call courtly love. Unsurprisingly, this led to an explosion of poems, paintings, and other forms of artwork, including a fair number that incorporated the heart into their symbolism. This was a natural choice because the medieval Europeans were already predisposed to seeing the heart as a symbol of love, meaning that it was a natural step for it to turn into a declaration of romantic devotion.
Of course, the heart symbol is like other famous symbols and meanings in that it has continued to evolve over time. However, the practice of giving heart-shaped gifts for Valentine’s Day is firmly established in the present, which is why interested individuals might want to check out the spectacular selection of gifts that can be found in our store.