Just north from the Ecclesiastic site of St. Mullins there is a rather interesting Holy well which is associated with the saint whom founded the nearby monastery. Situated on rising ground it is surrounded by an enclosure of masonry about 10 feet long by 5 feet wide. There is no roof on the well house but from a distance it actually looks like another little stone church. Its waters come from a spring to the rear of the well, which is about 3.5 meters in diameter, almost like a pond. It’s from this spring the water is fed through two separate holed slabs into the stone well house, below one of these there is still a rectangular stone with a circular basin which is said to be for bathing children in who are suffering from certain diseases.
There is a nice story regarding its beginning as a holy well. As the story goes Moling was trying to acquire wood from one of the five tree’s of Ireland to build his church on nearby lands which had recently been granted to him by Finnegan at Cashel. The wood he was after was that of the Yew of Rossa. Now another saint known as Laserian was also after the same wood but both monks were friends and so Moling convinced Laserian to let him have the precious wood. Moling whilst working on the wood got a small shaving caught in his eye. Moling described it felt like the talons of an eagle, a branch of holly and the scratch of a griffin in his eyelid each time his eye moved, causing him much pain and discomfort. One day as a cleric walked past he noted Moling sitting idly by the roadside and he asked him what the matter was. Moling explained that The cleric took pity on Moling and blessed a local well of water and told him to bathe his eye in it until it got better.
I recently came across a certain medieval manuscript on the ‘Birth and Life of Saint Moling’ which makes reference to the healing well but its language is quite difficult to understand and many of the accounts don’t seem to be meant literally. What is clear is that the well was considered to be a holy well of general healing rather than for anything specific. The waters were said to foot ulcers, which Moling suffered from later in life, eye ailments, a cure for warts and the flu. To cure the flu, the affected person had to dunk their head into the freezing cold water three times!
During the plague in Ireland the well became a hot spot for pilgrims whom flocked to these sacred waters in a desperate attempt to stave off the disease which was ravaging the population at the time. Ever since there has been a steady flow of pilgrims, some come just to pray, some come looking for a miracle cure and others like myself who just enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the area. Another tale told, is of a bush that grows at the well which is said to have grown from Saint Moling’s original walking stick that he planted there whilst bathing his eyes, and in the time it took for him to complete this act the dead stick had come to life and sprouted and rooted itself to the spot. However, there are other wells dedicated to Saint Moling which also make this bold claim!
The first reference to a Holy Well at St. Mullins is found in the Annals of Friar Clyn, the Kilkenny chronicler, which dates from the year A.D. 1348. Pilgrims would drink the water and brought some home for those unable to visit. They made their rounds (a prescribed walk) three times and waded barefoot through the stream. They also recited prayers at each of the ruined churches where they prayed round an old stone slab there nine times saying a Pater (Our Father) and an Ave (Hail Mary) each time. They would circle the well in a clockwise direction, known as circumambulation, while reciting prayers. During the 19th century a pilgrimage to St Moling’s well would take place twice a year on the 17th June and also on the 25th July. Unlike many of these places I have visited over the years some of which have an awful vibe to them, This one I am please to say is very calming and pleasant. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.