Ffynnon Gybi holy well, Llangybi, Usk
There are many natural springs in the limestone landscape of Llangybi. This one, below the churchyard and just at the point where the hillside meets the alluvial plain of the Usk Valley, has long been associated with St Cybi, who is said to have founded the church here in the 6th century.
The spring is also beside what was once the road from the river bank to the church and the settlement clustering around it – the llan (enclosure) of Cybi. The earliest recorded traveller to come up from the river to the meadows of Llangybi was Cybi himself, but he didn’t get a warm welcome! The local King, Edelig, heard that there were monks camping in his meadow. He mounted his horse and galloped down with his servants to evict the travellers.
Cybi prayed for protection, and horse and rider fell: the king was blinded and the horse killed. When the king begged for mercy, Cybi prayed again, restoring life to the horse and sight to Edelig. In gratitude, Edelig gave Cybi two churches and Cybi gave his bell to the other church.
Such improbable, violent and miraculous stories are common in Saints' Lives, which were not written down until translated from Welsh into Latin about 600 years later. We know the stories were told over centuries, and we know that the name Cybi is still associated with our church and community here, but we know little else for certain.
The beehive structure over the spring is reminiscent of hermits’ cells on the Aran Isles, where some of Cybi's later quarrels took place: is it possible that Welsh pilgrims on his trail had seen them and copied them here?
A 20th-century 'pilgrim' here was the poet TS Eliot, whose short enigmatic poem Usk appears to reference both the holy well and the White Hart Inn: 'Do not suddenly break the branch, or hope to find the White Hart behind the White Well.' It was only in 2003 that the allusion was identified by Professor Philip Edwards (Pilgrimage and Literary Tradition, Cambridge, 2005).
With thanks to Peter Foden
Postcode: NP15 1NP View Location Map