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The Mystery Of Wales: Divine Healing Waters In Holywell

The Mystery Of Wales: St. Winefride's Well's Divine Healing Water
In every corner of Wales one can find a holy well which, according to local belief, is said to possess strange powers. Some of them are classified as healing wells, powers are cursing wells, and some even combine the powers of cursing and healing. There are also wells that are said to bring prosperity, happiness and good luck.
Springs are wells in some areas were once believed to be guarded by dragons, serpents, eels and strange fish, and killing or removal of these guardians was followed by dire consequences, frequently taking the form of a mysterious epidemic which swept away whole families.

Interesting fact:

A comprehensive survey of these Welsh wells was undertaken by Francis Jones, who, in 1950, published his findings in a book entitled ‘The Holy Wells of Wales’. He identified a total of 1,179 wells and found that 437 of them were named after Celtic saints and 369 were said to possess special healing powers.

Despite of snowy weather we decided to explore one of those miraculous wells which us located in small town Holywell,  North Wales.
We visited the Greenfield Valley heritage park further up near the Greenfield Docks and walked the woodland walk past the old mills situated throughout the valley.
This leads you to St. Winefride’s Well.
The Mystery Of Wales: St. Winefride's Well's Divine Healing WaterGreenfield Valley Heritage Park (Welsh: Dyffryn Maes Glas) is a 70-acre (28 ha) country park in the United Kingdom.

The Mystery Of Wales: St. Winefride's Well's Divine Healing WaterSt Winefride’s is a fully described in numerous guidebooks and has been the subject of extensive more scholarly research.
Travel tips: Address: Plessington House, Greenfield St, Holywell CH8 7PN / On the B5121, parking across the road.
Website: St Winefride’s Well and Chapel
Phone: 01352 713 054
Open daily 9am-5pm (Oct-Mar 10am- 4pm, closed 25-26 Dec). Adults £1 , children 60p, students 20p. Regular services, bathing by arrangement.
You pay in the shop for entrance which cost me £1 for an adult and 60 p for a kid. You then enter a exhibition room which explains the history through pictures and information boards on the walls. The exhibition also includes a number of ancient crutches discarded by healed pilgrims.
The Mystery Of Wales: St. Winefride's Well's Divine Healing WaterAn exhibition area has a collection of crutches, left behind by early 20th century pilgrims who had no further use for them once they had bathed in the spring.
There is also the Museum of the Pilgrimage on the site, which also acts as a library for the well, housing documents and records of healings attributed to the well. There is a small display of various items relating to the history of the pilgrimage, although take note this museum is not always open during the well opening times.
From exhibition room you exit out another door and make your way to explore the well and buildings outside, there are an outside pool which runs in side the building to the well.
The Mystery Of Wales: St. Winefride's Well's Divine Healing WaterThe healing waters and the shrine of St Winifred

St Winefride’s Well is the most famous of all Welsh healing wells and, according to tradition, the waters have been flowing here for nearly 1,300 years; through the centuries it has been visited by throngs of individuals who regard it as the Lourdes of Wales.

According to the legend, St Winifred’s Well erupted at the spot where her would be rapist Caradoc cut off her head with his sword. But restored to life at the prayers of her uncle St Beuno, she lived as a nun until her second death 22 years later.

St Beuno built the first church at Holywell on the site of the present Gothic chapel and probably used the well as a baptistry.

The statue of the saint was placed in a niche above the well in 1888. It shows her as a abbeys carrying a crook and thin line around her neck has been included by the sculptor to show where her head was once severed by Caradoc.

The Mystery Of Wales: St. Winefride's Well's Divine Healing WaterThe shrine and statue St Winifred

It is said that St Beuno put a curse on Caradoc’s descendants that caused them to bark like dogs and the only cure was immersion in the holy well.

A stone by the steps in the outside bath is called St Beuno’s Stone and apparently this where he sat when instructing his niece Winefride. Before leaving the well she prayed that anyone who came there and made any request is her name would receive an answer ‘at least the third time’. So it became the custom for pilgrims to go through the inner well three times when bathing.

The Mystery Of Wales: St. Winefride's Well's Divine Healing WaterThe healing waters of this well have been said to cause miraculous cures.

They would then kneel on St Beuno’s Stone to say their prayers. A chapel was built over the well in 1490 by lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of henry VII. It is one of the finest examples of Tudor architecture in Wales and has been listed as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Wales’.

 Today the well receives around 36000 visitors a year and recently numbers have been said to be increasing significantly.

However whatever the truth is behind the legend, Winefride was a real person and a striking personality in the 7th Century which saw her become venerated as a saint and her well at Holywell a site of pilgrimage for centuries after.

Traditionally we finish our weekend walk in some nice place with tasty food, and this time proper Italian pizza was in our mind.

From pasta to pizza via mozzarella, prosciutto and tiramisu, it’s hard to beat family-run traditional Italian restaurant Mamma Rosa when it comes to good food, wine and hospitality.

Pizza and desert at Mamma Rosa restaurant are exceptionally good.

Food was fantastic, the staff were friendly and provided a good service. The restaurant had a good atmosphere and modern decor.

Photography © Gurcan Sarisoy

References:

St Winefride’s Well – A History and Guide by Rev Christopher David (2002)

Mysterious Wales – by Chris Barber (1999)

The Mystery Of Wales: Divine Healing Waters In Holywell
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