Who Is Saint Bridget, and Why Is She In a Well?

by Dylan DeMichiel / Oct 06, 2013 /
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In Ireland, a large percentage of people are Catholics. As part of this religion, it is customary for people to pray to patron saints to receive blessings, find relief, or ask for healing. There are patron saints for all kinds of causes, special interests, groups of people, professions, and countries. Saint Bridget (also known as St. Brigid) is one of these declared saints. She is known as the female patron of Ireland and fallen women.

 

In 500 A.D., when Bridget was a young girl, she renounced her beauty, and prayed to become ugly, so that she would not attract suitors and be forced into marriage. She insisted on giving all her possessions to the poor, and became a nun. She became the founder of the first community of religious women in Ireland - and is, therefore, known as the female patron of Ireland. She is also known as the patron saint of fallen women, because a palace belonging to King Henry VIII located in Bridewell (meaning beside the well of St. Bridget) was converted into a house of correction for refractory females.

 

Last year, my family and I were exploring the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Ireland. As we were leaving, we stopped in the gift shop and stumbled upon a book about St. Bridget’s Well. Apparently, there is a shrine several miles from the cliffs dedicated to Saint Bridget. People come from far and wide to pay tribute to this saint and beg for her prayers and healing. I hadn’t fallen and I wasn’t a woman, but hey, why not? I didn’t mind checking it out. 

 

On the road to St. Bridget's Well, Ireland

 

We drove several miles down twisting roads through the green, sheep-filled countryside of Liscannor, County Clare, Ireland. We saw the sign for St. Bridget’s well and turned into a tiny parking lot. I instantly hopped out of the car, not knowing what to expect. To get to the shrine, you had a choice of options. You could take a weird hedge maze that went by a cemetery, or just walk through the gate. I chose the gate. At first, everything seemed fine. A statue of a nun, who I assumed was St. Bridget, was enclosed in a glass case in front of the shrine and it seemed like a nice, peaceful kind of place.

 

St. Bridget, Ireland's Female Patron

 

I noticed an entrance to a small cave. I ran right in – and then ran right back out again, screaming the whole way. I had stumbled upon what looked like a serial killer’s lair. The cave was covered in statues, clippings of hair, and random photographs.

 

Surprised at St. Bridget's Well

 

After my initial freak-out, I calmed down and tried to realize the purpose of this unusual place. My parents explained to me that this was a place of healing; a spiritual place that many people sought out to find comfort. I slowly got up enough nerve to make my way back in. I had to check this place out! Lining the cave, there were pictures of people and baby toys on little shelves. Playing cards were stuck haphazardly all over the walls. Religious statues draped in rosary beads and pictures of Jesus stared at me. The cave was very small and at the far end, there was a little well with a picture of the same nun we had seen in the glass case outside. I had found St. Bridget’s well.

 

Although I was originally terrified, I began to explore a little more. I read some of the notes and took the time to look at some of the photos. All kinds of people - young, old and everything in between - come here to seek solace in their times of need.

 

St. Bridget's Well, Ireland - a place of healing and comfort

 

I learned there are four special days when a large group of pilgrims comes to the shrine to pray together. Every year, on August 15th, people come in honor of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many people come to St. Bridget’s well to find the love and comfort they are so desperately searching for.

 

I didn’t say any prayers or ask St. Bridget to help me that day. However, after reading all of the notes posted on the walls of the cave, I definitely learned a little bit about the never-ending hope of people. If you are ever in Ireland near St. Bridget’s well, please visit – it’s an enduring symbol of hope, and peace and serenity await you.

 

 

 

 

Dylan DeMichiel is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Dylan DeMichiel

 

 

 

A famous shrine in Ireland - serial killer's lair, or enduring place of hope and healing?

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