Thursday, 4 October 2012

St. Ita’s Well


The family holiday this year was spent down in at Faithlegg house resort just outside of Waterford. I went armed with a plan of sites to visit, but unfortunately the Irish weather had a different plan. Now I still got out to visit some sites in between rain showers but unfortunatly these were not the ones on my list. So there we have it, a valid excuse to make a return trip to Waterford. First visit was just outside Faithlegg House golf & spa resort were we stayed for the week. Located about 30meters from the entrance to the resort was a double whammy St. Ita’s well on the left hand side of the road and the ruins of a 13th century church on the other side right beside te current church of St. Nicholas which is believed to have been built on the grounds of an earlier castle.


Now The Holy well is named after St. Ita, for which little can be found regarding her association with the Faithlegg area, except that she was the daughter of Kennfoelad whom was a local chieftain and his wife Necta. Both parents were believed to have been Christians. She was believed to have been born around 470AD in the Faithlegg area and baptized as an infant. And it is here that her association seems to end. Ita it seems was best known for the founding of a convent in Cluain Creadhail, which is now known as Killeedy in County Limerick. Often compared to St. Brigid, she refused to be married, and left her fathers house to take her vows. Legend has it that Ita was lead to Killeedy by three heavenly lights. Her sister Fiona also travelled to Killeedy to become a member of her sisters community.


St. Ita died in approximately 570. Her grave, frequently decorated with flowers, is in the ruins of Cill Ide, a Romanesque church at Killeedy where her monastery once stood. A holy well nearby, almost invisible now, was believed to have cured smallpox in children for centuries. This well has two names – It is called St. Bernard’s Well on the ordinance survey map, but the local name has always been Tobar Bhaile Ui MhÈidÌn, My Little Ita’s Well, coming from the place name, Cill Barra MhÈidÌn. “Church of my little Ita’s Height. There is a strong local following of St. Ita in Munster, particularly in Waterford and Limerick, and her name is a popular one for Irish girls. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a new move was made in Ireland for recognition of her importance in the Catholic church; this was accomplished when Bishop Butler of Limerick obtained from Pope Pius IX a special office and mass for her feast which is now kept on January 15.

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