Friday, May 2, 2008

Remembering the Holy Wells of Gwent and connected with our saints

Good Morning!

Friendship Blessing of Early Britons

May there always be work for your hands to do
May your purse always hold a coin or two
May the sun always shine on your windowpane
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain
May the hand of a friend always be near you
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you

Holy wells were and are very important to the people in Wales and Monmouthshire and these wells existed in quite large numbers. Druids regarded wells, springs, lakes and rivers as the abodes of gods. No doubt a range of ceremonies were associated with them and they remained part of the local culture.

In the year 601AD Pope Gregory instructed missionaries to destroy the idols of Britain but to purify existing temples. Ancient sites, including wells, gradually came to be associated with the early missionary saints, such as those we have been hearing about. Many of the wells were roofed and had small chapels with niches for statues of saints but over the centuries the upheavals in the religious life of Britain led to the desecration and destruction of many old shrines and most old well chapels disappeared, but can be seen at St Cleer near Davidstow in Cornwall and at Madron Well near St Buryan in Cornwall.

Our Lady of Penrhys

Ffynnon Fair Penrhys was a south Wales well belonging to Llantarnam Abbey at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1538 Thomas Cromwell, vicar-general to King Henry VIII, ordered that the effigy of the Virgin Mary be removed "as secretly as may be" and the "Image and her apparel" were sent to London to be burned. The country folk were not easily swayed by the reformers and intellectuals of London, however, and pilgrimages to holy wells continued. The statue has been replaced.

St Cybi’s Well (Picture on the right hand side of the blog

Next to the Church originally founded by St Cybi at Llangibby (Llangybi) a Cronish saint. This well has recently been refurbished .

St Tewdrig’s Well (Picture on the Right hand Side of the Blog)

The Well at Mathern where St Tewdrig died. There is also a legend connected with it/

St Anna’s Well (Picture at the bottom of this blog)(The Virtuous)

Saint Anna’s Well is to be found at Trellech, near Monmouth (also Brislington) Anna is a Chrstian name after the Mother of the Virgin Mary.
St. Anna Born c.AD 445) was a younger daughter, the King of Gwerthefyriwg - what is now Gwent, where she grew up. She married, , Cynyr Ceinfarfog They had six children and eldest was the famous Arthurian warrior, Cai (Kay) and another was St Non, mother of St David.(Th last picture of the wells is St Non's in Menevia, West Wales-patron and deicatee of Lantarnam abbey-Llan sant-Non)) After Myrddin or Merlin had made and agreement with Uther that his son should be brought up in secret, the family got a foster-son, the future High-King Arthur. (Arthrwys)
Anna is the mother of St. Samson, who was also from Gwent. Some time after Arthur's ascendancy to the British throne, Cynyr seems to have passed away and Prince Amon Ddu of Brittany asked Anna to marry him. After they married, Amon moved to Anna's Dyfed home and became a high-ranking official at the Talgarth in the Court of Brychan. They had three children, Samson, Tydecho or Treddin and Tegfedd, all of whom entered a religious life. Samson became an influential bishop at Dol in Brittany and eventually persuaded his parents to also enter the church. Treddin founded a Monastry at Tre-Vethin- a corruption of Tre Treddin (the dwelling of Treddin). Tegfedd also founded a monastery at Llandegveth and was martyred there by Saxons. (see my account of the church) Amon became a monk at Ynys Byr (Caldey Island), whilst Anna moved back to her native Gwent. The 'Virtuous' Holy Well at Trellech was dedicated to her; but she is better known for founding churches further east in what is now Gloucestershire, at Oxenhall and Siston. St Samson visited her at the former and dedicated both her foundations. The holy well of St. Anne in the Woods at Brislington may also be named after her.

St. Winifred's WellNorth Wales

This well at Holywell near Flint has survived with associated buildings intact. I am including it, because it was closely connected with Monmouth Priory, who sent an ancient crucifix and vestments and pyx to Holywell for safekeeping during the excesses of the zealots. The Well and Chapel were granted by the Countess of Chester to the monastery of St. Werburg in 1093. Later, possession reverted to the Welsh lords and in 1240 Dafydd ap Llewelyn granted it to Basingwerk Abbey. Kings Richard I and Edward IV are said to have made pilgrimages there and in 1439 the Countess of Warwick presented her "russet velvet gown" to the chapel (an early example of the present trend in which famous people donate garments for the benefit of favourite charities). Richard III paid for a priest at the well. The present architectural remains resulted from the generosity of Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the future King Henry VII. It is possible that she prayed there for his success and when he was victorious at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, the Tudor dynasty came to the throne. And this may be why the Well and chapel were not destroyed during the Reformation.

St Maughan’s Well (St Maughams near Monmouth)

After St Mawgan.(near Monmouth)a friend of Cadoc and Brioc (mentioned in Tecla post)and like them also known in Brittany.The church in the Vale on St Mawgan in Pyday (Lanherne) in Cornwall is a successor of a Celtic monastery dedicated or founded by St Mawgan(Morgan) It is divided only by a wall from Arundel House where Catholic worship was maintained and now Carmelite nuns have stayed there for the last two hundred years and maintained the monastic life of Cornwall. At St Maugham’s Church near Monmouth, during the time of persecution in the 17 and 18th centuries, Catholics were taken to this well at the dead of night and here they washed their loved ones and laid them out before taking them up to be buried at night in the local churchyards, when their brave priests would say their Requiem Mass, Two Jesuit priests are even buried in the Churchyard.

St Tecla’s Well (Llandegla near Ruthin)

The ritual for this healing is in my post in April’s post on St Tecla.

St Materiana’s Well at Minster in Boscastle, Cornwall
-photo at bottom of Blog

St Issui’s Well of Pater Ishow at Partrishaw (Picture in a January post?

Llanyronwy Well (Rockfield near Monmouth)by Rockfield
Dedicated to St Cenhadlon/ Churchwife of Arthfael ab Ithel,daughter of St Brioc/Braivel and granddaughter of Llwyarch ab Tudor. (or the Tudor family)Rockfield was called Corn Cenhedlon originally-her meadow.. Corn is a well known place name for a meadow of a river or brook, which is where the church stands.A range of meadows high up in the muntains there near Monmouth there are meadows still called the Cyrn Meadows. She was a saint, having put her settlement there, although her husband was a petty chieftain of Gwent/ Bishop Matthew Prichard is buried beneath the sanctuary at Rockfield , who was Vicar Apostolic for the whole of the Western area during the times of persecution.


There were wells at Eveswell and Baneswell One of these could have been the St Woolos (Gwynlliw’s) Well the story of which is given in his Life (Vita) compiled by a monk of St Peter’s abbey, Gloucester.Whilst two areas of Newport are known by this name-can anyone locate them? Another Well has recently been restored at Bassaleg, whilst called a spring and horse trough it may well have been St Gwlady’s well.

St Sannan's Well in Bedwellty (in gardens of a former pub, near the church.

These photographs are copyright to Al Evans.
It appears the earlier well had a Mediaeval style cover - but now the area has been cleared and a stone bench put near. A new wicker style cover put over the well, and it has been cleaned up.He is not sure, whether the inhabitants of the house are responsible for maintaining it or whether the landlord did it before the pub was sold-we are finding out!Al suggests it is time for well-dressing! What a great tradition! We should get some Derbyshire people down to revive this beautiful custom.

Links with the Past, however....

Some of the wells retained their ancient associations despite the religious and social upheavals of the centuries. Francis Jones notes the way in which wells often figure in the Lives of the Saints written down by monks from handed on accounts. The theme of a saint's battle with dark forces at the site of a well is commonly encountered. Giants, demons and other manifestations of evil were overcome by saintly figures with God’s help and the Lives confirm that even after the many hundreds of years in which Christianity had been the state religion, the wells were sometimes still associated with the ancient Druid culture.

If anyone has photos or interesting information about old wells of Christian significance in Monmouthshire,or South Hereford please can you email me at ? I can then share them here and we can save them for posterity/

Haut de la Garenne

It is a rather horrible irony that Haut de la Garenne is French for ‘top of the warren’ –a warren being the home of rabbits. . The building is situated on Mont de la Garenne, a hill overlooking Mont Orgueil where rabbits were hunted. This varenne of the King was a perquisite of the Crown. No other news yet. Nor has the name of the arrestd person been given.

Where are you little Maddy?

Kate and Gerry McCann have said that if the police fail to find their missing daughter Madeleine they will carry on the search alone.
They told the Daily Mirror that they had been kept in the dark about thousands of leads which have been received by police. Gerry McCann said: 'We've got little bits of the jigsaw and huge gaps. We are saying, "You may have told the Portuguese police, but tell us". We need to know and we want to know. We will follow up every lead.'Thousands of leads came in through Crimestoppers and Leicestershire police. We have not had access to that information and we want it.'
He added: 'We aren't taking the law into our own hands... our investigation is independent.' The couple have launched what they described as a 'last chance' effort to find their daughter Kate and Gerry spoke of the 'torture upon torture' piled upon them during the last 12 months. They also acknowledged they could not keep up the intensity of their search and that the interest in their plight was bound to wane

It was on the 3rd of May last year, that Madeleine was snatched from her bed. The general concensus is that she is very much alive, and there has been rumour that she is now called Sarah Kandy from a poster who posted it on a web site.

<Madeleine McCann-Burglary in Pria di Luz from Martin Brunt on sky

‘I don't suppose it will distract them from their endeavours this weekend, but two of Kate and Gerry McCanns' closest friends in Praia da Luz have been burgled ahead of the Madeleine anniversary.

Anglican vicar Haynes Hubbard and his wife Susan have had a computer that contains personal and confidential email exchanges between the two couples.
The laptop also held notes on which Father Hubbard was basing his sermon about Madeleine at the weekendMrs Hubbard is concerned, too, about private telephone numbers stored on a mobile that was also stolen.

The Hubbards became great friends and comforters of the McCanns in the days after Madeleine's disappearance and have kept in touch since Gerry and Kate returned to the UK.’


Al Iguana said...

I'll take some photos of my local well, St Sannan's well, near St Sannan's church in Bedwellty.

I have no idea who St Sannan was... any idea?

Mary in Monmouth said...

Hi Al Iguana! Did you see I mentioned you in my latest podcast?
Great-would be excellent to have that. I think there are two possibilities but am not 100% sure. St Anna was as I mentioned yesterday the mother of Samson, Tegfedd and Treddin and married to Amon Ddu.However the Druid Fire god was called Santan and in a book called 'Earth Magic' apparently our Christian Saints often incorporated them into St Anns when they blessed them and made them baptisteries. Actually the Catholic church also believes that water springing up from the earth is beneficial and holy too, as it has life and movement, so there is no conflict spiritually. The sea is a symbol of death (story of Jonah for example and of Noah) is of protection from spiritual death and and allegories for baptism rescuing our spirits from being taken over by evil spirits. So the Holy Springs were not just taken over for nothing, it forms part of belief.

If you scroll down on the LEft hand side of the blog, you can see some of the Catholic videos called 'That Catholic Show' and one is called 'Water Water Everywhere'.This explains this.When we go to Walsingham, on pilgrimage, being blessed by the water from the holy well for healing is part of it and very ancient. Also an Anglican pilgrimage went up from Newport last year from St Woolos on a coach to Llanthony and Patrishow to St Ishow's well and there is a report of all of those being blessed by the well there. Wonderful site and continues to be a place of pilgrimage.

I do have some questions for you about Bedwellty which I need to formulate.
Thank you so much for the offer of photos for the blog. I will definately put them up. There is a stie somewhere called'Well springs' I think which might have info. Can you email me on the email address below and then I can give you my private email.Thanks!!!