Pilgrimages and Holy Wells

Article excerpt

Nevertheless, many Catholic beliefs and practices persisted despite the changes.The authorities were infuriated by the continued popularity of pilgrimages to shrines in Wales. Thomas Cromwell's right-hand man, the Protestant Dr Ellis Price of Plas Iolyn, was responsible for overseeing many royal commands in North Wales.

In 1538, he visited the popular shrine of Llandderfel (Merioneth) on the feast day of Derfel Gadarn, its patron saint. His report was scathing: hundreds of pilgrims had come on pilgrimage to Llandderfel with cows, oxen, horses, and money. They intended to give these as offerings to the saint, whose wooden statue there was reputed to work all sorts of miracles, including fetching people's souls out of hell. He had the statue removed and burnt. But pilgrimages continued despite his strong-arm tactics; more than 50 years later, Price reported to the government about events in Clynnog Fawr (Caernarfonshire). People still observed the feast day of St Beuno; they sacrificed bulls in Beuno's honour, and gave other offerings to him as well, thinking him the most powerful of all the saints, he claimed. In fact, people continued to come from far and wide to ask for Beuno's help with their sick livestock and other concerns for many years afterward. Beuno's well was also thought to have special powers to cure sickness. …