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“Break all bad crosses before us!” – The Cult of Ireland’s Holy Wells

Pre-Christian times

There are hundreds of holy wells in Ireland, each dedicated to a particular saint, and each endowed with some curative quality. Although tolerated by the Catholic church, they represent an alternative to the standard faith, reflecting the fact that their veneration dates back to pre-Christian times. 

Jesus’s grandmother

I recently visited the well at Killanne (Irish for “Anne’s church”) in Wexford, which is dedicated to Saint Anne, Jesus’s grandmother. Although I don’t believe in any of this stuff, I admit to finding the cult of holy wells fascinating and intriguing. Judging by the number of objects and letters, cards, etc. left there, this well is evidently quite a busy one.

The shelf above the well must be strong, to hold all the stuff left by visitors.

“God break all bad crosses before us!”

Extensive correspondence from visitors to Saint Anne is kept in a plastic folder on the shelf above the well. It is packed full of pictures, letters and cards, offering prayers and entreaties.

One laminated A4 sheet was filled with praying for healing and protection, mentioning numerous relatives. Two short passages:”

“To keep us all away for accidents sickness dangers hospitals and needs Fire our water amen.”


“god break all bad crosses before us!”


Private land

The holy well is on private land and is surrounded by a well-maintained stone enclosure to keep sheep out. In the distance, you can see Saint Anne’s church, where ‘official’ religion holds sway.

Killanne church, across the fields from the well:

I hope you enjoyed our visit to this peaceful, rural spot. I found it very relaxing.


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