St Dwynwen's Day

Illustration: Margaret Jones
Illustration: Margaret Jones

St Dwynwen's day is celebrated in Wales on 25 January and commemorates the patron saint of friendship and love.

Dwynwen lived during the 5th century and was, by all accounts, one of the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog's 24 daughters. The story goes that Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but unfortunately her father had already arranged that she should marry someone else. Maelon was so outraged that he raped Dwynwen and left her.

In her grief Dwynwen fled to the woods, where she begged God to make her forget Maelon. After falling asleep, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, who appeared carrying a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.

God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen. First she wished that Maelon be thawed, second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers and third that she should never marry. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God's service for the rest of her life.

Remains of Dwynwen's church can be seen today on the island of Llanddwyn, off the coast of Anglesey. During the 14th century, on visiting the island, the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym witnessed a golden image of Dwynwen inside the church, and was bold enough to request her help as a messenger between himself and Morfudd, the girl he hoped to win — despite the fact that Morfudd was already married!

Also situated on the island is Dwynwen's well, where, allegedly, a sacred fish swims, whose movements predict the future fortunes and relationships of various couples. Visitors to the well believe that if the water boils while they are present, then love and good luck will surely follow.

The popularity and celebration of St Dwynwen's day has increased considerably in recent years, with special events, such as concerts and parties, often held and greetings cards printed. Although still not as popular as St Valentine's Day in February, St Dwynwen is certainly becoming better-known among today's population of Wales.

what's on

  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.