Saint Winefride – 3rd November

Virgin Martyr and Abbess of Gwytherin, Enshrined in Shrewsbury Abbey

Born probably between 610 and 620, Winefride was said to be the child of Tyfid and Gwenlo who were of noble birth.  As a child she resolved to dedicate her life to God by living a life of chastity and prayer.  Winefride was martyred as a teenager one Sunday as St Beuno, Winefride’s priestly uncle and spiritual father, was preparing to serve the Liturgy on the Feast of Saint Alban (June 22nd). A young prince named Caradog, hot and thirsty from hunting, called at the cottage for something to drink.  Finding the beautiful Winefride alone there he attempted to seduce her.  Winefride fled down the valley to the chapel of Saint Beuno pursued by Caradog.  He caught her by the chapel door and in his rage at being rejected he beheaded her.  Where her head fell a spring of water gushed forth and thus created the Holy Well that has been a place of pilgrimage ever since.

The relics of St Winefride were finally translated to Shrewsbury Abbey on 19th September 1138. “On the appointed day ……the whole multitude fell on their knees, and many, from the excess of their joy, could not refrain from tears.” The shrine of Saint Winefride in Shrewsbury Abbey became a popular place of pilgrimage and its sanctity was demonstrated in many miracles.

At the Reformation the shrine of Saint Winefride was destroyed and the relics scattered.  Part of her thumb bone which survived at Rome was returned to Shrewsbury in the nineteenth century.  Part of it is now in the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the other part is contained in a reliquary at Holywell.

A full account is given here.

Christopher Jobson

Feature Image: Cropped from a photograph of an icon of St. Winefride by Aidan Hart.

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