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St Winifrede's Well

'The Lourdes of Wales'

RE:QUEST travelled to Holywell in Wales recently. Whilst there we visited St Winifrede's Well and took these photos. It is said to be the oldest Catholic shrine in Britain. There is a famous legend about the well and how it came to be a place of pilgrimage.

Spoiler alert: It's a bit of a horror story!

Saint Winifrede's Story

Winifrede (sometimes spelled Winifred) was a young lady who lived in the 7th century. She was the daughter of a chieftain, and her mother's family had close ties to Welsh royalty. 

She decided to become a nun and dedicate her life to God. Legend has it that Prince Caradog, who had really taken a fancy to her, tried to persuade her to marry him. When she refused he became so angry that he chopped her head off! Her head was said to have rolled down a hill until it finally stopped. A healing spring of water bubbled up at the exact place where it stopped. (You were warned about the horror part!)

Legend also has it that whilst her head was rolling down the hill, there was an earthquake, which completely swallowed up Prince Caradog.

Winifrede's uncle, Saint Beuno, saw what had happened and placed her head back on her body, then wrapped her body up within his cloak. The legend goes that she woke up as if she'd just been in a deep sleep.

Saint Beuno left the area to go back home to Caenarfon. Before he left, he prayed in the area where the well sits - still bubbling today - declaring that whoever came to the spot to ask for healing would receive it. 

A Place of Pilgrimage

For centuries, people have travelled to St Winifrede's Well to seek healing by bathing in the waters from the well. It is for this reason that the shrine is known as 'the Lourdes of Wales.' Lourdes is a famous place in France where people go on pilgrimage to ask God for healing. Many people claim to have been healed after bathing in the waters at St Winifrede's Well.



After looking at the images, choose one of the following tasks to complete:

  • Create a diary of pilgrimage to St Winifrede's.
  • Research and write Saint Winifrede's story in your own words.
  • Create a storyboard about a person's pilgrimage to St Winifrede's Well.
  • Do people really get healed when they visit Saint Winifrede's Well? If they do, is this evidence of God's great power? Research and answer this question, giving your own opinion: What do you think?

There is a Welsh language version of this resource here.

St Winifrede's Well Grounds
The Bathing Waters
The Well
Inside the Well
Stained Glass Window: Saint Winifrede and Saint Beuno
Saint Winifrede Statue
Crutches Left After Healing
Etched Testimonies of Healing