Dydd Santes Dwynwen, or Saint Dwynwen's Day, is marked and celebrated across Wales, on January 25th. The story of Saint Dwynwen has been told in many different variations over the centuries, but the core of the story remains the same in all of them. They feature a young woman called Dwynwen, her lover, Maelon, and the Island of Llanddwyn, Ynys Llanddwyn.
Who was Dwynwen?
Dwynwen is believed to have been a daughter of King Brychan Brycheiniog, who lived in the 5th century. Dwynwen lived in Anglesey, it is believed that she was one of 24 (or maybe more!) sisters.
What was her story?
Dwynwen fell in love with a man called Maelon, and through Maelon returned her feelings, they were unable to be together, as her father the King, disapproved of their love, and forbade their marriage. Dwynwen, distraught by her hopeless and forbidden love for Maelon, prayed to fall out of love with him.
Fleeing from her situation, and finding herself in a forest, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, gave her a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice. She was then given three wishes, and she made them as follows...
• First she wished that Maelon be thawed.
• Second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers.
• Third that she should never marry.
...all three of her wishes were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God's service for the rest of her life.
Where did she go?
Dwynwen became a Nun, devoting herself to God, and set up a convent on Ynys Llanddwyn, on the coast of Anglesey. Llanddwyn literally means, 'The Church of Dwynwen', and the remains of the convent & church can still be seen there today.
Llanddwyn Island & Cross. Photograph by Alex Davies
A place of Pilgrimage
In the middle ages, Llanddwyn Island became a place of pilgrimage for many, with pilgrims making the journey to her sacred well, where it is said that if the fish swims within the waters, it can indicate lovers destinies, or the water boils whilst lovers are present, then good luck and true love will follow!
The Second Wish
Santes Dwynwen chose two of her wishes completely selflessly - one, that Maelon be freed from his poisoned state, and second, that true lovers may be blessed by God, with their hopes and dreams met. It is for this reason, as well as her saintly life, that we still celebrate today.
A wonderful island...
You can visit Llanddwyn Island very easily, walking through the forest at Newbrough, or along the beach, crossing the infrequently flooded natural causeway onto the island, which is now a nature reserve, as well as a naturally peaceful place - we walk there regularly and love the island for its never-ending beauty through all the seasons, and its calming atmosphere - it is a truly special place.
Llanddwyn Island. Photograph by Alex Davies
[With thanks to Alex Davies - Instagram for the use of his photographs.]