…That’s what Holywell, North Wales styles itself as, anyway. St. Winefride’s Well in Holywell (see how that works?) is one of the seven wonders of Wales and an important Roman Catholic pilgrimage site in the United Kingdom.
St. Winefride was a 7th century Christian Welsh woman who got her head chopped off by an unwanted suitor when she resisted him. Lucky for St. Winefride, her uncle was St. Beuno, who prayed over her until her head fastened back on. She lived as a nun for the rest of her life, as she had desired. A spring appeared at the site where her severed head hit the ground, and people have been making pilgrimage to it ever since.
St. Winefride’s Well is known for its powers of healing. A collection of wooden crutches from previous visitors is displayed next to information about the known history of St. Winefride, the legend, and the thirteen centuries of continuous pilgrimage.
An impressive 16th-century Gothic shrine surrounds the source of the well, with a pool for bathing in front. I was intrigued by the centuries of graffiti and carvings from people who had visited and been healed: Mr. Murphy from Cork, Ireland in the mid-19th century, and another fellow from the end of the 18th century, among others. It always amuses me to see that the human need to record our presence has existed long before public toilet stalls.