A holy well or sacred spring is a spring or other small body of water revered either in a Pagan or Christian context, often both. Holy wells were frequently pagan sacred sites that later became Christianized. The term holy well is commonly employed to refer to any water source of limited size (i.e. not a lake or river, but including pools and natural springs and seeps), which has some significance in the folklore of the area where it is located, whether in the form of a particular name, an associated legend, the attribution of healing qualities to the water through the numinous presence of its guardian spirit or Christian saint, or a ceremony or ritual centred on the well site. In Christian legend, the water is often said to have been made to flow by the action of a saint, a familiar theme especially in the hagiography of Celtic saints.
- PETROC AND THE WELL
St. Petroc arrived at Padstow in 518 A.D., according to Fuller. St. Samson was already in Padstow, attempting to finish his chapel. Petroc came ashore to discover reapers hard at work. They answered his greeting rudely, saying that he could best serve their needs by providing water, whereupon he struck a rock and so gushed forth a fountain “and from it a most salubrious stream has never ceased to flow”. When the reapers praised God for the miracle, Petroc wished to know how it was that they knew God and they pointed to Samson, who was standing nearby.