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Welsh Traditions - St Dwynwen Patron Saint of Lovers

Updated on January 13, 2015

Ruins of Saint Dwynwen's Church

Ruins of Saint Dwynwen's Church
Ruins of Saint Dwynwen's Church | Source

The celebration of St Valentine's Day has become a word wide celebration. In Wales however, they have their own patron saint of lovers - St Dwynwen. On January 25th, St Dwynwen's day is celebrated in a similar way to valentines with cards, flowers and poetry. The holiday has become increasingly celebrated in other parts of the world.

Historically stories such that of Dwynwen were passed down generation to generation through oral tales, songs and poetry so there are several variations on the story. The theme of love is central to all the variations.

Medieval Wales - Brycheiniog was in the South of Wales

Medieval Wales
Medieval Wales | Source

Who was St Dwynwen?

Dwynwen was the daughter of King Brychan Brycheiniog who ruled one of the Kingdoms in Wales in the 5th Century. King Brychan was a very religious ruler who married three times and had a over fifty children. One of these children was Dwynwen. In most versions of the story Dwynwen fell in love with a Prince called Maelon Dafodrill. The King had already promised Dwynwen to another Prince so the marriage was refused. Another version suggests that Dwynwen realized she wanted to live a religious life And not get married.

Dwynwen prayed to God to help her fall out of love with Maelon and while sleeping dreamt that an angel visited her and gave her a potion. This potion would erase her memory and turn Maelon into a block of ice. God then granted her three wishes. Her first wish was to free Maelon by melting the ice, second that all the hopes and dreams of true lovers would be met and thirdly that she would never marry.

Dwynwen thanked God by dedicating her life to Him.


Church Ruins

 The ruins of St Dwynwen's Church in Llanddwyn
The ruins of St Dwynwen's Church in Llanddwyn | Source

Crosses On Llanddwyn Island

Crosses On Llanddwyn Island
Crosses On Llanddwyn Island | Source

What Happened Next?

According to the story, Dwynwen then founded a Church on the Island of LLanddwyn which is off the coast of Anglesey. Llanddwyn still has the remains of a Church and became a place for pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. There is also a well on the island called Dwynwen's well which was often visited by those looking for answers about love.It was believed that the fish who live in the well were sacred, if the fish are active during your visit then it is a sign of a happy relationship. Another belief is that if the fish could predict a faithful husband.

After the Middle Ages the pilgrimages declined and the Church began to fall into disrepair. In Tudor times a new Church was built on the ruins of the original and the ruins that can be seen today are from that 16th century construction. It was not until the Victorian period that the Anglican Church refocused on tradition and a cross was erected in memory of St Dwynwen near to the ruins of the Church. The cross was plain and about fourteen feet high. in 1093 a further cross was erected, this time a Celtic style in memory of Dwynwen. The Church ruins, well and both crosses are now part of a nature reserve.

Interesting Facts about St Dwynwen
Was thought to be the most beautiful of Brychan's daughters
Welsh people often celebrate with concerts and parties
Dwynwen translated means 'she who lives a blessed life'

Why January 25th?

Historians have found that calendars from the 15th century list St Dwynwen's day as the 25th of January. There are some who dispute this, identifying July 13th as the correct day. The date is not listed on any present day Anglican or Catholic Church calendars but that been adopted by many areas in Wales.

Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey

Llanddwyn Island Today

The Anglesey History website describes Llanddwyn Island as magical. The Island, located at the far end of a beach is actually attached to the mainland for the majority of the time. I provides views of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula. It has a beacon at the tip of the island to guide ships heading for the Menai Strait And the whole island is part of the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve.

Views of LLandwyn Island

Modern Celebrations

Many people celebrate St Dwynwen's day in Wales and it's popularity continues to grow. Giving of love spoons, cards and poems similar to Valentines day. Below is a link to how the day was celebrated by some.

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  • Ruthbro profile image
    Author

    Ruthbro 2 years ago from USA

    Thank you, glad you liked it!

  • Dip Mtra profile image

    Dip Mtra 2 years ago from World Citizen

    Interesting hub. Every country has its own interpretation of Valentine. Voted up.