Tuesday, 22 May 2012

20,000 Saints? You must be joking!

This cross is a reminder of the 20,000 Saints said to have been buried on Bardsey Island. Why 20,000? In 1000 years of pilgrimage that is less than one per fortnight. It was a popular place of pilgrimage for people who were sick. It was the destination of a walk of healing wells. No wonder that so many died here or en route and subsequently had their bodies brought here. I can believe the figure of 20,000 or thereabouts. One thing is for sure, there are no Saints left on the mainland!

But why were they Saints? This walk of holy wells had a special feature (I won’t call it a selling point) which was that all pilgrims engaged on the journey, should they die on the journey or on the Island itself, then they would be excused all their sins and be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven without going to Purgatory on the way. They would be free of all sin. In other words, Saints! Unsurprisingly, any pilgrim who thought that he was near to death chose to stick around the Island and wait for the inevitable. This boosted numbers considerably. They became the first tourists in North Wales. Not much repeat business though!

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