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St Winefride's Well is a holy well located in Holywellmarker, in Flintshire in North Walesmarker. It is the oldest continuously operating pilgrimage site in Great Britainmarker.


The healing waters have been said to cause miraculous cures, The legend of St Winefride tells how in 660AD, Caradoc, the son of a local prince, severed the head of the young Winefride after she spurned his advances, and how a spring rose from the ground at the spot where her head fell and how she was later restored to life by her uncle, St. Beuno

The holy well is known as "the Lourdesmarker of Walesmarker" and is mentioned in an old rhyme as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. It has been a pilgrimage site since the 7th century.

After a shrine was established in Shrewsburymarker around 1138, it and St Winefride's Well became important pilgrimage destinations. Some of the structures at the well date from the reign of King Henry VII, or earlier. Later King Henry VIII caused the shrine and saintly relics to be destroyed, but some have been recovered to be housed at Shrewsbury and Holywell.

Richard I visited the site to pray for the success of his crusade, and Henry V was said by Adam of Usk to have travelled there on foot from Shrewsbury in 1416. James II is known to have visited the well with his wife Mary of Modena, after several failed attempts to produce an heir to the throne. Shortly after this visit, Mary became pregnant with a son, James.

In the late 15th century, Lady Margaret Beaufort had a chapel built overlooking the well, which now opens on to a pool where visitors may bathe.

The Jesuits have traditionally supported the holy well. In fact in 1605, many of those involved with the Gunpowder plot visited here with Father Edward Oldcorne to give thanks for his deliverance from cancer, or as some said, to plan the plot.It is also believed to be connected to St Mary's well and chapel in Cefn Meiriadog, Denbighshire.

As one of the few locations mentioned by name in the anonymous medieval alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it is interesting to compare the site's beheading history with the beheading game in the poem.

Gallery of images

Image:Holywell1.JPG|View from the entrance to the siteImage:Holywell2.JPG|Bathing pool and tents where people can undressImage:Holywell3.JPG|The source of the waterImage:Holywell4.JPG|Hand-pump by the bathing pool, providing drinkable water from the sourceImage:Holywell5.JPG|Inscription left by someone who was curedImage:Holywell6.JPG|Decoration at the top of a pillar showing man carrying a disabled companionImage:Holywell7.JPG|Candles burning in front of a statue of St Winefride


  2. Holywell Tourist site
  3. Alexander, Marc (2002) A Companion to the Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Publishing, p.264-265
  4. BBC - Seven wonders of Wales
  5. Lives of the Saints By Alban Butler, Peter Doyle, ISBN:0860122530

External links

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