Perhaps one of the more unusual shrines, albeit certainly one where thousands of people make annual pilgrimages, is that of St. Winifred in Wales. 

According to legend, in 660 Caradoc, the son of a local prince, severed the head of St. Winifred after she refused his advances. Legend says a spring rose from the spot where her head fell. 

St. Winifred was later restored to life by her uncle St. Beuno, a well-known seventh century Welsh Abbot who is credited for bringing Celtic monasticism to north Wales. 

The well, originally known as the “Lourdes of Wales,” and now referred to as St. Winifred’s Well, has been a pilgrimage site since the seventh century, although the shrine was first mentioned as a pilgrimage site in the early 12th century. 

King Henry V made a pilgrimage there in 1415 before his victory at Agincourt, and King Edward IV made a similar visit before a major battle in 1461.

The two-story building at the well, known for its unique architecture design, is set into a hillside and dates to the late 15th century. It is believed the building was built for King Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort. The richly ornamented exterior features a frieze of animals and the badges of King Henry VII and Thomas Stanley, Beaufort’s third husband. 

A clear water spring in the shape of an eight-pointed star is in a central basin, with steps in the front accessible for the sick. Water flows into a swimming pool, which has been more of a recent addition.

There is also a chapel located in the building. 

Numerous cures have been reported at the well in the past several hundred years, thus making it a popular pilgrimage site.

St. Winifred eventually became a nun at a convent of a double monastery in Gwytherin in Denbigshire. She died there, 15 years after being restored to life.