Cranfield Church & Holy Well, Antrim, Ireland

Cranfield Church and Holy Well are situated overlooking the northern shore of Lough Neagh, its certainly its scenic surroundings make it easy to understand why this place became so renowned for pilgrimage. The rectangular church on site dates from the 13th century but it is quite possible that it replaced an earlier church dedicated to St Olcán, to whom the nearby well is dedicated. Cranfield comes from the Irish Cream-choill , meaning The Wood of the Wild Garlic. It is believed that Olcán was ordained by St Patrick, and was buried at Cranfield in soil brought from Rome. The church was in use for over 400 years but appears to have been destroyed by 1662. During penal times and the suppression of Catholics outdoor masses continued to occur at Cranfield, and so up to the present day on the closest Sunday to June 29, St Olcáns Feast Day.

The holy well is a site of pilgrimage and was meant to be visited on three occasions between May Eve and June 28th. The following was the process, the pilgrim came to the church with seven small stones and kneeled before the door of the church saying the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Creed. The pilgrim would then walk barefoot clockwise around the church saying the Rosary. When they arrived back at the door they would drop a pebble and complete another round. When this was completed the seventh time the pilgrim would draw some water from the well and bathe themselves in it. There are many cures and much folklore attested to the well. It is said that its waters rise on the 29th of June and small amber gypsum crystals are lifted into the well. Lough Neagh, which it seems serves the well has a high silica content which cause timber left in the lough to petrify and become stone-like. These crystals were thought to protect women during childbirth, protect fishermen from drowning, and homes from fire and burglary. During the mass emigration of the 19th century people believed swallowing one of these stones would assist in a safe voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The custom was banned by the church in 1828 as they deemed it to be too pagan. However judging by the number or rags tied to the old hawthorn tree and the evidence of many visitors it does not appear to have had an affect on this timeless place. There is also a well smoothed boulder beside the well where its nice to rest overlooking Lough Neagh.

GPS: 54.70418, -6.36391

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.