Lady’s Well – Summer 2005

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Tradition tells us that a Marian Apparition took place in the vicinity of the Well after the battle of Athenry in 1249. The Normans within the town at that time requested the Irish not to attack and to honour the feast day- the Assumption. The Irish attacked and were defeated. Legend has it that Our Lady appeared to a wounded soldier retreating from the battle of Athenry. Since that time the Holy Well is a place of pilgrimage and is one of the most popular and oldest places of pilgrimage in Ireland.

We are also told that for centuries Pilgrims used to take a short cut across the fields barefoot to pray at the Well, and wash their feet in the stream.

The main pilgrimage has taken place on the 15th August for the past 755 years, where Mass is celebrated at 3.00 pm. The first Mass was celebrated by the late Cannon James Gibbons P. P. Athenry on the 15th August 1972 and it has continued ever since.

People gather from Athenry parish and the surrounding areas and from the Gaeltacht Regions – Connemara and the Aran Islands to attend Mass at the Well. Many return home from abroad to meet at ‘The Well’- to renew contact with their friends and to be with their families.

The Celtic Pieta: This dates back from the 14th century and is set in the outer wall of the Well. The Mother holds the body of Christ, not cradled in her arms as in the continental style, but in an almost upright position against her body. It shows signs of considerable damage and this is due to erosion and the tradition that it was defaced by Cromwellian soldiers.

The Headache Stone: This large rectangular stone with the cavity in the centre was a socket for a medieval cross. There is a strong tradition of personal healing associated with this stone.

The Calvery was erected in 1932, the year of the Eucharistic Congress, and it was blessed by the late Cannon Conroy P.P. Athenry on the 8th December 1932.

The Grotto was put in place in1954 to mark the Marian Year. All the work was carried out by local people. The late Monsignor Michael Mooney P.P. Athenry was instrumental in forming a Lady’s Well group (Committee) and in 1988 paths were laid, the wall around the Well was rebuilt. Flowers and shrubs were planted, the drainage was improved and the Stations of the Cross were erected.

The Millennium Park was developed to mark the Jubilee 2000. The design is in the form of a Celtic Cross. The tradition of the Celtic Cross —the cross placed against the Sun, is a unique symbol of the tradition from pagan worship to Christianity in Ireland.

The Park which leads into Lady’s Well is a place of reflection and peace, it is also a place of harmony where people can sit and reflect on the past and the future.

The Sculpture: which is the centre- piece of the Millennium Park is made from Kilkenny Limestone and it is 81 inches in height. It shows Our Lady embracing a soldier after the battle of Athenry. This Sculpture and the Park was developed for the Millennium (2000). It gives you a feeling of atonement, of forgiveness and unity and our longing for the healing in us in mind and body and a desire to belong, to reflect, to be accepted in this life and the next. The Millennium Park and sculpture were officially opened and blessed on the 15th August 1999 by Fr Tony King P.P. Athenry.

A Day that marks History: August 15th 1999 was a historic day for Athenry. Lady’s Well celebrated 750 years of pilgrimage. The opening and blessing of the Millennium Park and unveiling of the Sculpture marked the last Lady’s Day pilgrimage of the Century. Few Parishes have a place so rich in faith, culture and tradition.

On behalf of The Priests of the parish and Lady’s Well Committee I would like to express our thanks to all who have been associated and involved with this special place down through the years, and to all the pilgrims from our own parish and neighbouring parishes who have come here each year on the 15th August, – a very special thank you.

The Committee of Lady’s Well and Millennium Park are a voluntary group of parishioners who take care of this special place, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to them, and to all the volunteers who have cared for the Well and area down through the centuries. I know that their dedication is appreciated by the people of Athenry. We have made many improvements during the last few years, Lady’s Well area, Millennium Park and the car park area have had tar and chip surface laid. Walls have been completed and steps have been added down to the stream. This will be beneficial to pilgrims who wish to wash their feet in the stream as in days gone by. New fencing has been erected behind the Grotto along the perimeter to the river and a wooden fence has also been erected along the stream. Eight trees have been planted in the car park and we are in the process of hanging a gate at the wheelchair entrance.

On behalf of Lady’s Well Committee I wish to express our thanks the all who gave their professional service and to the volunteers who has helped with the maintenance throughout the years.

Lady’s Well belong to the people of Athenry Parish and to maintain it at the standard as it looks today, young members are urgently required to become actively involved in it’s maintenance.

Approximately one hour per fortnightly during the month of April to September would be ideal. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Lady’s Well Prayer: This very old prayer was given to me by a member of the Committee and I thought you may like to hear it. A Station to Lady’s Well is never complete without taking three sips of the Well-water and reciting this old prayer from the past.

“By the word of God

By the cross of Calvery

By the operation of the Holy Spirit

And the intercession of the Mother of God and the power of this Water

l Believe”

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About this record

Written by Martin King

Published here 09 Jan 2024 and originally published Summer 2005

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