Friday, November 09, 2012

St Winefride's Well, Holywell, North Wales

Here are some pictures of an ancient pilgrimage site in Britain. It dates back to the miraculous healing of St Winefride at the waters of the spring at this site in the 6th century. It is at the town of Holywell (appropriately named) in North Wales. I grew up just about 10 miles from here, over the border in England. I was aware of the place and the reason it had been named, vaguely, when growing up, but had no idea that it was and active pilgrimage site until long after I converted. I used to go and listen to Vespers at a convent in nearby Chester and a nun told me that there were many cures and conversions as a result of St Winefrides well. (The same nun told, me incidentally, that an Irish mystic has been told in a vision that Freddie Mercury, the late singer from the rock group Queen, is in purgatory. I would certainly like to believe that it's true!) People could drink the water or immerse themselves in the pool. Around the same time a group of Bridgetine nuns moved there to set up a new retreat centre. I had about this because they had previously been members of the community at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham. So I decided to make a visit.

As you can see it is a well preserved medieval structure (dating from the 15th century). I drank the waters and prayed at the site. As someone who struggles to get into a heated swimming pool, I decided not to go for full immersion. It has been visited by English Kings and during the Reformation became a focus for recusant activity. You read about it on Wikipedia.

Looking at the photograph above you can see the changing tents, on the right, the hand pump for water to drink, on the left. The flowing spring, which you will see in photos below is in an octagonal starred well. It is situated in the turretted stone building at the far end and it overflows into the dipping pool which you can see.

Below we have a medieval sculpture of a man carrying someone else who is infirm and inscription of someone cured.

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