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The story of Dwynwen, Welsh patron saint of lovers

Dwynwen: from Dwynwen: Santes Cariadon Cymru, published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch
Thwarted in love, Dwynwen dedicated her life to the happiness of other lovers

Siân Lewis, author of Dwynwen: Santes Cariadon Cymru, explains why a 5th century Welsh girl devoted her life to the happiness of lovers.

People have written many stories about Dwynwen over the years, so the exact history has been lost.

But it is true that Dwynwen was the daughter to Brychan Brycheiniog (son of an Irish king). Some said he had 36 children, and all his daughters were supposed to be beautiful.

They lived in Brycheiniog (Brecon) and it seems that Maelon Dyfodrull came down from the north and fell in love with Dwynwen. She loved him too, but Brychan wouldn't let them get married.

In the version I tell children, I say her father was very angry and Dwynwen ran away. Maelon followed her and lost his temper with her when she wouldn't marry him because she didn't want to disobey her father. So she prayed to God to be let out of her love and she turned him into ice.

The more adult stories say he threatened to rape her and she prayed to God to be safe. The turning to ice is a suggestion that she froze his passions when he was going to attack her.

Then, as the story goes, an angel came and gave her three wishes.

Llanddwyn church
As part of the Anglesey Coastal Path, Llanddwyn is a popular place for a walk

Firstly, she wished to be free of Maelon, and he vanished; went back home, I suppose.

Her second wish was that she would never marry and the third that she could help other lovers. She wanted to spend her life helping anyone who was in pain through love.

So she went away with her sister Cain and brother Dyfnan. Brychan's children went round Wales, preaching and establishing many Christian churches.

They sailed off in a boat which took them to a little island off Anglesey where Dwynwen established a little cell. That place is today known as Llanddwyn (Dwynwen's church).

Her sister Cain went on to establish a church on Anglesey at Llangeinwen. It's also believed that Keynsham near Bristol was named after her.

Many other girls who'd found God came to Dwynwen on Llanddwyn and a church was built on the island. People would visit, especially if they had troubles with love, to pray to Dwynwen and visit her holy well.

The cult of Dwynwen has existed for centuries and people have always made pilgrimages to Llanddwyn. There are still the remains of the church and they hold a service each year.

In the 1970s, someone drew attention to her story to establish Santes Dwynwen Day instead of St Valentine's.

Dwynwen: Santes Cariadon Cymru, by Siân Lewis is published in January 2010 by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch at £4.50.




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