Saint Caimín's Holy Well, Caherminnaun

Saint Caimín's Holy Well, Caherminnaun
Tony Kirby

Townland: Caherminnaun, Kilfenora

Description of Holy Well and Landscape Setting

This holy well is located in a field called Páirc Chaimín.
Kilcameen is a religious site within the field on an raised mound and with a low wall around it. It enjoys an elevated position on good farmland overlooking an ancient route from Corofin to Kilnaboy and on to Kilfenora. This complex once included the Church of Caimín, which no longer stands. A pillar stone survives on the mound as well as a cillín. There is also a depression in the earth surrounded by stones, known as the ‘Monk’s Bed’  or Saint Caimín’s Bed.

The holy well lies nearby, a couple of metres below ground level. It is in good condition and is encircled by a drystone well house with gap and steps to access water. The well appears to collect shallow groundwater flow in a small rock basin. This basin may be natural, man-made, or a mix of the two.

Cillín: a burial ground on unconsecrated earth where unbaptised infants were sometimes laid to rest.

Saint and Feast Day Associated with Holy Well

Saint Caimín is a County Clare saint and canonised monk from the 7th century. His cult is present at two other sites in the county. At Inis Cealtra (Holy Island), the oldest church on site and holy well are dedicated to Saint Caimín. The holy well at Moynoe, Scarriff is also dedicated to this saint.
Caimín’s feast date 24th/25th March, which is also the Spring Equinox.

John O’Donovan and Eugene O’Curry recorded in the Ordnance Survey Letters that rounds at the well were ‘almost given up’ by the 1830s. However, two locals are recorded as having been cured of eye ailments at the well in the 1930s. The National Folklore Collection tells that offerings at the well once included ‘pictures, bones, holy books or rosary beads’, ‘money and little pictures’  and ‘coppers and pins and hairpins’.
-Irish Folklore Collection, Vol. 19, 100-101, Vol. 0619, 084 and Vol. 0619, 087.

According to Professor Etienne Rynne, the well was ‘still resorted to, apparently to good effect’  in 1970.
‘The well and the Bed must be visited on two successive Thursdays and on the Monday following. Prescribed prayers are recited at well. One must walk slowly around the well in sun-wise direction. Ritual also performed at The Monk’s Bed. Pilgrim lies down in the bed and nine Ave Marias are recited in order to complete the ritual’.
Local historian, Jack Flanagan, notes that the well was still being frequented by some locals in the early 1990s.

Natural Heritage around the Holy Well

The well lies in an area of glacial deposits -sands, clays and gravels- with an underlying bedrock of limestone. It is rich agricultural land.

Heritage Attractions Nearby

The site is about 1 kilometre east of Kilfenora which has shops and a café. The village is home to the Burren Centre, a medieval cathedral and an important group of high crosses.

Discover More…

Burren Holy Wells

Ordnance Survey Letters, Royal Irish Academy

Ordnance Survey Letters, Ask About Ireland

Rynne, E 1970, ‘A Cure for Sore Eyes’, North Munster
Antiquarian Journal, 
vol.13 p58.

Record of Monuments and Places Number

RMP CL 009-05910.

 

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