A shrine of hope and healing for women

The Shrine of St Winefride in Holywell, north Wales, has been elevated to the status of a national shrine for England and Wales. It’s one of the oldest places of pilgrimage in Britain and has an unbroken 1,400-year tradition of pilgrimage.

Dec 08, 2023


WALES: The Shrine of St Winefride in Holywell, north Wales, has been elevated to the status of a national shrine for England and Wales. It’s one of the oldest places of pilgrimage in Britain and has an unbroken 1,400-year tradition of pilgrimage.

The local Catholic bishop, Bishop Peter Brignall of Wrexham, is delighted the Bishops of England and Wales have given the shrine this recognition.

“It’s an important recognition by the bishops of the value of shrines and is totally in accord with Pope Francis. Recently, the Holy Father met the directors of shrines and spoke to them of the importance of shrines as places of pilgrimage, prayer, consolation, and hope for all who visit them.

“Indeed, the Jubilee Year of 2025 has been given the theme Pilgrims of Hope. We are all pilgrims and these shrines are little windows onto the whole pilgrimage of our lives.”

Bishop Brignall also wants St Winefride’s Shrine to be a beacon of hope and healing for women who have suffered from violence and abuse, in parallel with the experiences of the saint herself.

In 630, St Winefride spurned the advances of Caradog, a chieftain from Hawarden who attempted to seduce her. The aggressor then pursued and decapitated her as she ran towards the church which had been built by her uncle, St Beuno. In the place where her head fell, a spring of water came up. St Beuno came out from the church, took up her head and placed it back on her body before praying and miraculously raising her to life.

Bishop Peter Brignall said, “One of the things that I inaugurated this year, drawing on the story of St Winefride and the abuse and attack upon her, was to make the shrine at Holywell a place of consolation for those who have suffered similarly in their own lives.

“I wanted to draw on that tradition of healing in Holywell, that healing that comes through the intercession of St Winefride, through the grace of God, that those who, in our own time have suffered violence of any sort and are inevitably traumatised by it —particularly women — may find consolation, hope, comfort, reconciliation and healing at Holywell.

“When we speak of healing, to my mind, it’s that global form of being made ‘whole’ rather than being ‘cured’ of a particular illnesses or disease.” — Exaudi

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