St. Dympna’s Holy Well
Located in the townland Caldavnet (Cúil Damhnata), north west of Tydavnet village, St. Dympna’s Holy well site has sacred, religious, archaeological and biodiversity significance.
The townland name where the Holy Well is located takes it name from Saint Dympna as does the parish and village. Caldavnet has appeared in a number of guises through the centuries: in 1768 – Culdawnett; 1793 – Caldavet; 1853 – Culdavnet. It is pronounced locally as Ku-l’davnet. The Placenames Commission consider it to be Cúil Damhnata or the Corner of Dympna. The meaning of the placename is reflected in the local history of St. Dympna; which refers to her hiding from her father at this site.
Links with Tydavnet
Tydavnet is a seventh century foundation associated with St. Dympna. The site is high on a ridge with commanding views and according to the Annals was previously a burial place: “First and principal church is situated in theprovinceofOirgialla, in the district of Sliabh beatha. It is called Teagh Damhnait, and it was formerly the burial place of the princes and dynast of Oirgialla.” The Ecclesiastical taxation of 1306 calls it “House of Damnat”. Tedavnet Old Graveyard is an important archaeological monument (MO006-022), and the site of a medieval church.
The Martyrology of Tallaght (eighth or ninth century listing of saints and their feast days) enters a festival, at the Ides or 13th of June, in honour of Damnat Sleibe Betha. Her mother is said to have been Bronach, the daughter of Milchon, St. Patrick’s master, who was the mother of many saints. She seems to be distinguishable from St. Dympna of Belgium, according to the sources that exist but local tradition has attached her to that saint since the Franciscan scholar John Colgan identified them as the same person in the mid seventeenth century. Both George Petrie and John O’Donovan of the antiquities division of the Ordnance Survey c.1830/40s doubted the link between the two names.
St.Dympna’s Holy Well site at Caldvanet is an archaeological monument (MO006-033) and protected under the National Monuments Acts. There is a possible bullaun stone located approximately 80m east of the well.
The site is a ritual site is linked to the old church site in Tydavnet by an old footpath or route, which crosses several townlands. There is also a collection of six large boulders on the site.
The actual well house itself was constructed in the 1950s. The shrine with statue was erected about twenty years ago and the altar was placed there when the Roman Catholic Chapel of St. Dympna was re-ordered and redecorated around the same time.
The habitat onsite is species rich wet grassland with a number of heath loving species. Species recorded include Common Milkwort, Bog Asphodel, Tormentil, Cross-leaved heath, Meadow thistle, Devil’s bit scabious, Self-heal, Common-spotted orchid, Heath spotted orchid, Cat’s ear, Yorkshire fog, Soft rush, Common rush, Meadow thistle, sphagnum moss and a number of sedge species. There are small areas of gorse and willow. Ringlet butterflies and common frogs were also recorded onsite. The wet grassland is low in nutrients and has not been intensively farmed in some time which is why it retains such diverse plantlife. The site should be managed to retain and conserve its biodiversity value.