St Moling's Well

Dublin Core


St Moling's Well


Helen Doyle

Description of Well Item Type Metadata

1 Name of well and saint

St Moling's Well

2 Townland, County, GPS

St Mullins, Co Carlow
GPS - N:52.489954, W:-6.929125

3 Physical description of well and its surroundings

St Moling’s well is situated in St Mullins in Co Carlow. The well is a stone built four walled roofless structure. There is a narrow doorway through which pilgrims enter the well. It is said that seven springs feed the well, and so there is a constant flow of water that enters through two slits at the rear of the building into a stone font. Recent research has shown this to be the remains of a baptismal church built c. 1100, as part of the regularising of baptismal practices in the Irish church at that time.
O Carrigain, T. ‘Churches in Early Medieval Ireland’ Yale University Press 2010, p 199 - 208.
St Moling’s well is situated to the north of the ancient monastic site in St Mullins. The well is located beside the millrace, said to have been dug singlehandedly by St Moling over a period of several years. When it was completed St Moling consecrated the millrace and it, together with the holy well, became a site of pilgrimage.
The well can be easily accessed through the churchyard or by road. There is a car park across the road from the entrance to the well.

4 Cure

The water from the well is thought to be a cure in particular for ailments of the head, but cures for a wide variety of ailments of the mind and body have been attributed to the holy well.
There is a belief that if the water is applied to any affected part of the body there will be a cure. In particular there is a great belief in the healing power of the water when poured over the head and by drinking it.

5 Pattern day

The Pattern day in St Mullins is traditionally held on the Sunday nearest to the 25th July, the feast of St James, patron saint of pilgrims. There is a little Pattern on July 25th. The feast of St Moling is celebrated in St Mullins on the 17th June.

6 Offerings

Traditionally it was not common for offerings to be left at St Moling's well. However, in the past on Pattern day there were often donations made for the upkeep of the well. In present times, however, it has become more common for small tokens to be left inside the well walls. Holy pictures, small statues and small personal items belonging to babies or children have begun to be left.

7 Prayer rounds and stations

Private individual prayer.

8 Stories

A Catholic priest, Fr Daniel Kavanagh is buried in the graveyard in St Mullins. The belief is that if a person suffering from toothache takes some clay from his grave, holds it in their mouth and makes their way to the holy well, where they take some water in their mouth together with the clay, it will cure their toothache. (Examples of this story and others relating to St Moling's well can be found in the Schools Folklore Collection).

9 Publications

Clyn, Friar John and Dowling, Thady. The Annals of Ireland. Dublin, n.p.
De Paor, Maire B. St Moling Luachra. Dublin, 2001.
MacNeill, Maire. The Festival of Lughnasa. London, 1962.

O’Leary, Patrick. ‘St Mullins, A Local History of the Life and Times of St Moling’ in The O’Leary Footprint Philip E Murphy and J. David Hughes (eds). Graignamanagh, 2001.
O’Sullivan, T.F. Pattern Day at St. Moling’s. Carloviana. 1976/77

Edward O’Toole, The Holy Wells of County Carlow. Bealoidais, Iml. 4, Uimh 1 (1933)
O Carrigain, T. ‘Churches in Early Medieval Ireland’ Yale University Press 2010, p 199 - 208.
Laheen, M. ‘Conservation and Management Plan for the Pilgrim Route at the ecclesiastical site of St. Mullins, Co.Carlow’ 2015.
St Mullins, Co. Carlow.
Mary Laheen, Architect from the School of Architecture, UCD

10 More

Description of the Ritual Observances of the Pilgrim Route
Entry by path from existing road.
2. Blessed well and pool of springs.
3.Tacarda = the ‘Wading Stream’ channel of water to river.
4. Path by the townland boundary to the river crossing.
5. Crossing the river.
6. Crossing the millrace.
7. Entry into the monastic precinct.
8. Stone High Cross.
9. St James’ cell.
10. An Teampall Mor
1. The path itself is short, less than a quarter of a kilometre – what is considered important is not the length of the path, but the intensity of the experience and the observance of certain rituals. Having left the road and taken a path by the river bounded to the east by derelict buildings which were once the houses of local families, the pilgrim reaches a roofless stone structure that encloses the well.
2. Recent research has shown this to be the remains of a baptismal chapel c. 1100, as part of the regularizing of baptismal practices within the Irish church. The well is fed by an upper pool that contains several springs, the water gushes through two square openings made in two large vertical stones in the east wall. It is known as the Tiopra – pilgrims circumambulate the Tiopra and the pool of springs to the east which feeds the well.
3. From here pilgrims walk to the river and enter a stone constructed channel which directs the water from the holy well to the Aughavaud river. This is known as the Tacarda and also the ‘wading stream’ locally. The stream is entered barefoot and the pilgrims walk against the flow of the water towards the blessed well.
4. Having emerged from ‘wading the waters’ they walk close to the boundary of the well field and come through an opening in the boundary into the river field. Formerly a path by the boundary led pilgrims towards the river crossing. This field boundary is also the townland boundary of St Mullins.
5. There is a place at the river where pilgrims used to cross on stepping stones these are still visible. Generally the water is too high to cross in this manner. It was here that a wooden bridge carried people across from the 1970s until the bridges were removed at the end of the twentieth century. The location is the proposed position of the new bridge.
6. Once across the river the pilgrims continued southward and in the past crossed a second bridge over the millrace. The evidence of the first OS 1839 is that a millrace in this location existed, it was used to drive the mill wheel at the corn mill lower down on the river Barrow. However, on Frizell’s map in 1768 no mill race is shown in this location, or mentioned in the notes. Hence the mill race was built somewhere in between these two dates – 1768 and 1839.
7. Once across the millrace pilgrims ascended the steep ground towards a set of stone steps that led to the monastic site. Here there are two millstones recovered from the river bed in the end of the 19th century. Local tradition holds that these are the millstones of the saint’s mill. The mill itself is thought to have been situated lower down near the river. Patrick O’Leary refers to a mill stone he found with the Rev James Graves one evening in September 1885.
8. Once through the opening in the walled monastic area pilgrims pray at the ancient granite high cross, now dilapidated but re-erected in modern times on its original cylindrical base.
9. Moving eastwards further rituals are observed in the tiny ruined oratory known as the cell of St James.
10. Walking around the monastic site three times the pilgrimage ends at Teampall Mor, which is held to be the burial place of St Moling.