Struell Wells: pagan past and Christian present

Finbar McCormick

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The complex of buildings at Struell Wells, near Downpatrick, Co. Down, is the most extensive at a holy well in Ireland. It comprises two wells, two bath-houses and the ruins of a church. Nearby is a natural rock feature known as St Patrick’s Chair. The earliest reference to the wells is likely to be in the 8th century Fíacc’s Hymn which records the site being visited by St Patrick. The earliest reference to their healing powers can be dated to the 11th/12th century and the site continued to be a focus of pilgrimage at midsummer until its suppression in the nineteenth century. The site seems to be unique in that bathing in the wells constituted an integral part of the rituals performed by pilgrims. A recent study of the holy well phenomenon in Ireland has suggested that the rituals associated with them have their origins in the Counter-Reformation (Carroll 1999). The evidence from Struell, however, strongly suggests that it was an important sacred site in pre-Christian times.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-62
    JournalJournal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland
    Issue numbernull
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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