Valentine’s Day is celebrated all around the world, but here in Wales we celebrate love on the 25th January with our very own patron saint of lovers – St Dwynwen.
But, how did this 5th century princess become a symbol of love and hope for so many? Why have so many young lovers pilgrimaged to west Wales to seek answers? Why is a well so important? Look below for the top five things you need to know about one of Wales’ most popular saints!
- Her story wasn’t actually that romantic… in fact it was kind of the opposite. According to the legend, despite being considered one of the most beautiful of Brychan Brycheiniog’s twenty four daughters, Dwynwen was unlucky in love. She fell for a prince called Maelon Dafodrill but that the love ended badly. Some versions suggest that the prince left her because she rejected his premarital sexual advances. However, most argue that Dwywnen’s father, Brychan Brycheiniog, was determined that she would marry someone else. Either way, young Dwynwen was left devastated
- There was a potion… In an attempt to find comfort, Dwynwen prayed to God and asked him to help her forget her love. An angel then visited Dwynwen (whilst she was asleep) and gave her a potion that was supposed to take away Dwynwen’s memory of Maelon (a little like the beautiful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and turned him into a block of ice.
- The three wishes. Loving Maelon, Dwynwen only sought to forget him (not for him to be frozen) so when God gave her three wishes, her first was to thaw her Maelon and save him. Her second wish (despite her own pain and sorrow) was to ask God to meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers. Her final wish was simply to never marry. She had loved once and would love no more.
- Devotion. After her final wish, the legend says that the beautiful Princess Dwynen went on to devote her life to God as a mark of gratitude. She travelled around Wales with her sister Cain and brother Dyfnan, preaching Christianity and helping those who had suffered pain through love. She then went on to establish a convent on Llanddwyn (meaning ‘The church of St. Dwynwen’), off the west coast of Anglesey.
- Well. A well in Llanddwyn was named after St Dwynen and became a place of pilgrimage after her death in 465AD. Lovers would visit (especially if they had troubles in love) and pray to Dwynwen. They would visit the holy well and follow the movement of the sacred fish or eels that lived there, to find out if their relationship would be one of love and happiness or one ruined by unfaithfulness.
So, although Dwynwen’s own life in love may not have been a happy one, her selfless wish for love for others is why she deserves to be our partron saint of love.
Happy Dwynwen’s Day!!
Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus!!
Information taken from Historic UK, Visit Wales and Santes Cariadon Cymru, by Siân Lewis .