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St Seiriol's Well

Behind Penmon Priory, Anglesey, north-west Wales

This tranquil location on the eastern tip of Anglesey has remains spanning over 1,000 years. It was the site of a monastery dating back to the time of St. Seiriol, who is believed to have lived in about the 6th century. A holy well which survives may have its origins in this period. In the early 13th century the Celtic community was reorganized under the Augustinian Rule, and at this time the priory church was enlarged. This now serves as the parish church.

The earliest churches erected in Anglesey were connected with the cells or abodes of hermits. The foundations of St Seiriol's cell are to be seen near the well, and attached to the cell on level ground in front of the well was a small primitive building in which the surrounding inhabitants assembled for the purpose of prayer and instruction. Seiriol lived in the late 6th century and according to legend, regularly used to meet St Cybi of Holyhead at a central rendezvous. Seiriol travelling with his back to the sun in the morning and returning with his face to the east in the afternoon, became known as Seiriol the Pale, the other, Cybi the Tanned. St Seiriol was buried on nearby Puffin Island.

The Holy Well is a spring emerging from a cliff behind the church. It is reached by a path on the left just beyond the car park, which skirts the monastic fish pond. The crystal clear spring is surrounded by a slab floor with stone benches around the sides. The waters were thought to have healing powers and were visited by the sick and infirm in the hope of a cure. Although it is the source of water for the monastery, the structures are relatively modern. The roofed inner chamber around the pool is of brick and dates from 1710. The lower courses and lower antechamber with seats on either side may be somewhat earlier, but no medieval finds were made during recent excavations. The so-called 'cell' beneath the cliff on the left is of uncertain date and purpose.

 

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Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas