January 13th, 2019
Uncover your inner romantic and join us on three stunning walks to celebrate Wales’ patron saint of lovers.
A long, long, long, time ago there lived a beautiful princess; in fact she was the most beautiful princess in the whole of Wales. Princess Dwynwen was the bewitching daughter of a powerful Welsh king called Brychan Brycheiniog, who ruled a kingdom in mid-Wales in the 5th century.
In a tale of love, anger, revenge and heartbreak, Dwynwen’s story is one of the most often told in Welsh folklore and legend; not least because she became the Welsh patron Saint of Lovers. Her day, Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen (St. Dwynwen’s Day) is celebrated on the 25th January each year and thousands of romantic cards, messages and presents are sent throughout Wales as couples across the country remember their loved ones. Sadly though, Dwynwen’s own story is not so blissful….
A Sad Story
And so the story goes; one fateful evening, Dwynwen’s father, King Brychan organised an enormous feast for all the noble families of the land. During the party Dwynwen’s allure soon caught the eye of the handsome Prince Maenon. He rushed to declare his love for her, and the young sweethearts vowed to marry as soon as they could.
They hadn’t, as young lovers often don’t, counted on the wrath of Dwynwen’s father. He was outraged at the suggestion; his beautiful daughter was a valuable asset to him, and she’d already been promised to another powerful family.
When a heartbroken Dwynwen told Maenon of her father’s plans, the young prince was furious. He was so angry that he pushed his beautiful princess to the ground in a fit of rage, throwing his angry words at her as he marched away.
Poor Dwynwen was so upset that she fled as far as she could. In the dark forests of Anglesey she cried as she prayed to forget her love for the cruel prince Maenon. After falling into a fitful sleep, Dwynwen dreamt of an angel, who firstly turned Maenon into a giant block of ice and then gave her three wishes.
The devastated princess wished that Maenon be thawed and be happy, and that the angel should grant the hopes and dreams of all young sweethearts from then on. Dwynwen also wished that she never fall in love again or marry. All three of her wishes were granted, and the young princess vowed to dedicate the rest of her life to serving God.
She became a nun, and founded a church on the isolated island of Llanddwyn off the south western coast of Anglesey. Legend has it that her church became a hermitage for heart-broken women who lived out their days on the remote island.
Place of Pilgrimage
The remains of St Dwynwen’s church can still be found at Llanddwyn, although these are from a later church built during the 16th century. The island became an important place of pilgrimage for religious devotees and some medieval records claim that pilgrims came from as far as France to pay their respect to the tragic Dwynwen.
Young couples also frequently came to the island to visit the special well which is said to contain fortune telling fish that can predict the happiness of the union with their movements. And if nothing else, even today, the wild and remote setting is sure to set romantic hearts a-fluttering.
The sad story of Dwynwen is just one of many traditional Welsh folk tales of love, romance and sorrow. Another famous fable comes from an isolated corner of the Llyn Peninsula. Now the home of a Welsh Language Centre, Nant Gwrtheyrn is a small bay and community on the northern coast.
The tale tells of a young couple from the village, Rhys and Meinir, who would often meet under a mighty oak tree to discuss their wedding plans, and it soon became their favourite place and safe haven.
Following the local custom and ancient traditions, on the morning of the wedding Meinir ran to hide, while the groom was sent to hunt for her. However, the bride was nowhere to be seen. A search party was sent out, but she had vanished. Rhys was heartbroken and spent the following months and years traipsing over lonely hills and beaches in search for his sweetheart.
One day over thirty years later, Rhys took shelter from a storm under the mighty oak tree. Suddenly, a great bolt of lightning split the great trunk in half, and out fell the skeletal corpse of his beloved Meinir, still in her wedding finery. A grief stricken Rhys collapsed and died instantly of a broken heart. Some visitors claim to have seen two ghostly figures walking hand in hand on the beach.
Happy St Dwynwen’s Day!