St Dwynwen's Day: Who is Wales' patron saint of lovers and why is she celebrated on 25 January?

St. Dwynwen's Day is the Welsh equivalent to Valentine's Day, which is celebrated on 14 February. Credit: PA Images

On 25 January, Wales celebrates its patron saint of lovers, St. Dwynwen.

The Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine, who is celebrated on 14 February, her feast day is similarly marked with flowers and cards.

But who was Dwynwen, and how did she become a patron saint?

Here is everything you need to know about St Dwynwen's Day.

  • Who was Dwynwen?

Dwynwen was a fifth century princess who lived in what is now the Brecon Beacons National Park.

She was one of the 24 daughters of St. Brychan, king of Brycheiniog, now Brecon.

According to legend, the princess ran away and became a nun after she was forbidden from marrying the man she loved. She devoted the rest of her life to helping other lovers find happiness.

Legend has it that Dwynwen ran away to Llanddwyn Island, off Anglesey, to become a nun. Credit: Visit Wales
  • The legend of Dwynwen

Her story varies, but one of the most popular claims that Dwynwen fell passionately in love with the son of a neighbouring king, Maelon Dafodrill, and they planned to spend their lives together.

But it was not meant to be, and different versions of the legend attribute different reasons. It was either because the king had already arranged a suitor for his daughter, or because Dwynwen wished to become a nun.

Legend has it, Dwynwen then prayed to be released from love and dreamed that she was given a potion to do this, but the potion turned Maelon to ice.

She then prayed for three wishes - for Maelon to be thawed, for true love to always be protected in her name, and to never fall in love again, nor marry.

Llanddwyn Island is home to ruins of a church dedicated to Dwynwen that can still be seen today. Credit: Natural Resources Wales
  • How did she become the patron saint of lovers?

After her wishes came true, Dwynwen became a nun and travelled across Wales, setting up churches and praying for those who were troubled in love.

She finally retreated to the solitude of Llanddwyn Island, or Ynys Llanddwyn, a small island off the west coast of Anglesey, where ruins of an ancient church dedicated to the saint can still be seen.

Despite its name suggesting otherwise, Llanddwyn Island is attached to the mainland at all but the highest tides. It provides excellent views of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula and is part of the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve.

Dwynwen became known as the patron saint of lovers and pilgrimages were made to a well on the island that was believed to be the home of sacred fish whose movements predicted the future for lovers.

She is also the patron saint of sick animals, and her name is thought to mean 'she who leads a blessed life'.

  • How is St Dwynwen's Day celebrated in Wales?

St. Dwynwen's Day, or Dydd Santes Dwynwen in Welsh, is considered to be Wales' most romantic day.

It is not celebrated by everyone but is becoming increasingly popular, especially among Welsh speakers.

As with Valentine's Day, St. Dwynwen's Day is marked by the sharing of gifts such as flowers, chocolates, cards and other heart-shaped presents.

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