Previous Saint This month Next Saint
[Yesterday's last saint] [back to Calendar] [Today's next saint]

Died c. 460. A Welsh saint of the family of Saint Brychan of Brecknock (f.d. April 6), Dwynwen coined the maxim, nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness. She settled in Anglesey, where the places names Llanddwyn and Porthdwyn recall her memory.

Her church there was the destination of the sick and especially young men and women because she is the patron of Welsh lovers. Baring-Gould explains the reason for her patronage in The Golden Legend. Maelon wished to marry Dwynwen but she rejected him and prayed to be delivered. She dreamed that she was given a drink that cured her, but the drink turned Maelon to ice. Then she made three requests: that Maelon be defrosted, that all true-hearted lovers should either succeed in their quest or else be cured of their passion, and that she should never wish to be married. Accordingly, she became a nun.

In the Middle Ages Llanddwyn was a rich church due to the offerings left at the shrine and holy well by pilgrims. The movement of the fish in the holy well was believed to indicate the destiny of those who consulted it. This superstitious practice and the invocation of Dwynwen to cure sick animals survived the Reformation, probably because of its relative isolation. Churches dedicated to her are to be found in Wales and Cornwall (Benedictines, Farmer).

Another Life, from Dwynwen East

Llanddwyn Island.

Llan originally meant a clearing or a piece of consecrated ground, possibly with a monastic cell on it. Later Llan came to mean a church and the part that follows is usually the saint's name to whom the church was dedicated:-

Llanfichangel - after Mihangel - Michael the Archangel.
Llanbedr - after Pedr - Peter.

Such place names became numerous and were later added to by some territorial description, for example, Llangefni means the church on the river Cefni.

Llanddwyn Island, North Wales, is technically a peninsula cut off from the Isle of Anglesey occasionally by high tides at certain times of the year. Access is by foot through Newborough Warren dunes or along the mile and a half of beach known as Llanddwyn beach. On a clear day the Snowdonia mountain range on the mainland is clearly seen across the straits. The island forms part of the National Nature reserve. Wild flowers, sea birdsand seals live on and around the island. Rare old breeds of Soay and Jacob's sheep graze in an enclosure.

The old lighthouse dates from 1926 and a lifeboat station was also manned but both are now disused. The pilots' cottages still stand and one of these has been refurbished to appear as it would have been in 1900 when inhabited. Another cottage holds an exhibition of wildlife to be found on the island and this exhibition includes the history of 'Dwyn the Pure'.

St. Dwynwen was one of the 24 beautiful daughters of Brychan, a 5th century prince, and her chapel became a popular place of pilgrimage after her death in AD465. The ruins of a Tudor church which was built on the site of the original priory can still be seen. The modern Celtic cross on the island commemorates all who are buried thereabouts. The Latin cross is dedicated to St. Dwynwen who founded the convent there.

Dwynwen is the patron saint of Welsh lovers. Star struck lovers would seek to discover their fortune by watching the movement of an eel in the island's freshwater spring. Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen - St. Dwynwen's Day, Jan 25th, is steeped in Welsh tradition and folklore. Festivities mark the occasion in Wales every year.

This is a place of pilgrimage for me and has been for almost 50 years; a very special place of peace and prayerfulness. It is inaccessible by car (unless you happen to be the warden in a landrover) and it therefore continues to be completely unspoilt. You will find no toilet or cafe here. One can wander round the cliff paths, visit Dwynwen's well on the North side of the island, or relax on one of the many sandy beaches amid the rocky outcrops, watch the seals, and listen to the sounds of nature. I thank God that such places are still to be found away from the busy, noisy life of this automated age.

a photograph of Llanddwyd

Previous Saint This month Next Saint
[Yesterday's last saint] [back to Calendar] [Today's next saint]