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The Holy Well of St. Winefride, Wales
by Barbara Ballard

There's an atmosphere of peace in this place-a place of pilgrimage for 1300 years. A place where people come in faith to ask for God's favors. This is St. Winefride's Well.

This holy place began with a legend. In 660 AD the town of Holywell, located in northern Wales, was a cluster of huts centered around a church. Caradoc, the son of a prince living in the area, pursued Winefride, the daughter of a local prince. Refusing to marry him, she sought sanctuary in the church, but, before she reached it, Caradoc caught her. Angry at her refusal to marry him, he beheaded her.

It is said a spring of water rose where Winefride's severed head came to rest, a spring with healing powers. St. Winefride's uncle placed her head next to her body. He then prayed over her, and she rose to her feet, head attached, became a nun and was eventually made Abbessof a convent. She died 15 years later.

As the fame of the well's healing power spread, pilgrims journeyed to the spring to pray for healing, passing through the cold, clear, bluish water three times. Walking down limestone steps, they kneeled and kissed a stone cross. An ancient carving of one pilgrim carrying another is etched into the worn stone.

Royalty visited the site. Henry V, who relied on the Saint's aid at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, made a pilgrimmage of thanksgiving to the well the year following his victory. In the 15th century, Lady Margaret, Countess of Richmond, and the mother of Henry VII, commissioned an elaborate arched crypt to be built above the spring. Emblems of the family are found in the stained glass. Carvings of St. Winefride and her legend adorn the weathered stone. High in the crypt ceiling St. Winefride is seated with a staff in her hand and a crown over her head.

Five hundred years of graffiti on the walls of the crypt attest to the years of unbroken faith in the well's healing powers. Thousands of visitors continue to come today. Candles of hope still shine. St. Winefride's Well is a place of pilgrimage, the Lourdes of Wales.


St. Winefride's Well is located in the town of Holywell off the A55, B5121, in northern Wales. It is one hour by car from Manchester Airport.

St. Winefride's Well
For detailed information on the history of St. Winefride's Well, the church and chapel, go to their Web site.

The Catholic Encyclopedia gives information on the origin and history of the well as well as a description of the well.

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