In 2020 a survey of Holy Wells of County Kildare was undertaken and in 2022 Brian Cregan was commissioned to photograph the remaining wells. This survey forms the basis for this publication.
Holy wells are not wells as such but springs and as a geological feature have flowed through the whole of human history. Kildare is part of an area of Ireland where underlying rock formations have produced warm springs, recording temperatures of 17 to 24 degrees Celsius. So, we have sayings like ‘founts of inspiration’ or ‘founts of knowledge’, from the Latin for spring fons. As well as symbolising the human imagination, their purity and their undiluted mineral contents were, from a very early period, seen as therapeutic: a holistic healing of mind and body.
The publication describes the method by which the researchers collected and analysed data on the Holy Wells of Kildare in 2021. Then some facts and figures about the wells in 2021, for example how many still exist, are they accessible to the public and are they maintained. A survey of saints’ names associated with wells leads into a section of the meaning of the wells over roughly three historical periods.
The final section considers the decline of holy well worship through the nineteenth century and examines the place of those wells still active in the twenty-first century with particular emphasis on Kildare’s most famous well, Father Moore’s.
An appended Gazetteer provides details for each of the wells surveyed.
Please note that the details of events listed above are provided by the relevant Local Authorities.