St Dwynwen and Llanddwyn Island Anglesey...St Dwynwen and Llanddwyn Island in Wales
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St Dwynwen

St Dwynwen's Cross on Llanddwyn Island

“Nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness,” said St Dwynwen once, following this tale of icy love…

January 25th. Just what does this day signify? For England it is just another cold day at the end of the first month of the year, yet for most Welsh people it is St Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine’s Day. But just who was Dwynwen and how did she become the Welsh patron saint of lovers?

Once upon a time in the 5th century, there was a young woman named Dwynwen, who was one of the 24 daughters fathered by Prince Brychan Brycheiniog, then King of Wales. Renowned for her beauty, Dwynwen was considered one of the prettiest of Brychan’s daughters, but she was also very religious and pure.

Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Daffodrill, who she wished to marry. There are several different versions of the story: that Maelon rejected Dwynwen’s love for him; her father refused Dwynwen to marry Maelon because he had already found a suitor to whom he would have Dwynwen married; or Maelon discovered the Prince’s plan to marry Dwynwen to another man and in his frustration, he raped Dwynwen and abandoned her.

In her heartbreak and upset, Dwynwen fled to the woods where she prayed to God to make her forget Maelon and her feelings towards him. Falling into a deep sleep, Dwynwen was visited by an angel who gave her a potion. On giving the potion to Maelon, he suddenly turned into a block of ice.

Afterwards God granted Dwynwen three wishes. Her first wish was for Maelon to be thawed; secondly she requested that through her, God would care for all true lovers; and thirdly, she wished to never marry. Her three wishes granted, Dwynwen retreated to Llanddwyn Island, a small island off Anglesey, and there she devoted her life to God as a way of thanks for the granting of her three wishes. In her devotion she built a convent and a stone church upon the island. As well as becoming the Welsh patron saint of lovers, she also became the patron saint of sick animals.

Dwynwen died in 640 AD. Since then, Llanddwyn Island and her church have been visited by hundreds of pilgrims every year. Lovers visit the island annually to discover their destiny. Many believe that by following the particular movements of the eels and fish that live in the pilgrim’s well on the island, lovers will be able to see if their love is true. But maybe they should just crack a joke. After all, nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness. ....

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