St Eilian’s Well, Llaneilian

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link_to_french_translationSt Eilian’s Well, Llaneilian

This well, close to the Wales Coast Path, is situated in a barren area among broken rocks.

St Eilian was once Bishop of Lindisfarne, Northumberland. He was venerated for the sanctity of his life. Many people came from the remotest parts of Britain to this place, where he had resided. They wished to obtain, by their pilgrimage and votive offerings, the benefit of his favour and protection.

It was the custom of devotees to visit St Eilian’s Well on the eve of the saint's festival (13 January). After drinking the water they would kneel for some time before the altar of the small chapel which had been erected over the well. Afterwards they would retire to St Eilian’s Church, where they performed other ceremonies, concluding with an offering to the saint. This custom prevailed until the late 19th century. Although the spring was nearly dried up and the chapel in ruins, people still resorted to this place, imploring the saint’s intercession for sick relatives or friends. The offerings made on these occasions were annually distributed among the local poor.

The foundations of the medieval chapel, measuring about 3 x 3 metres, are visible against a vertical rock face which formed one side of the enclosure. The springwater passes through a fissure in the rock into a hollow within the square.

The offerings of the pilgrims amounted annually to a large sum, and were placed in a chest called “Cyff Eilian” kept in St Eilian’s Church for that purpose. It is dated 1667 and can still be seen in the church. The contents of this chest paid for rebuilding the church and the adjoining chapel and for the purchase of two farms. The church is about 800 metres south-east of the well.

With thanks to Roy Ashworth

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Grid reference: SH466933

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