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Holy Wells and Other Holy Places

by Jeremy Harte


   To what extent can place-names be used to trace a pre-Christian sacred landscape? And what differences, if any, can be identified in the ‘holiness’ of different types of well-name? The author examines the use of ‘halig’ in place-names, and shows how it cannot, contrary to popular belief, indicate elements of a sacred pagan topography. Firmly separating ‘halig’ from other, demonstrably pagan, place-name elements, the author identifies a chronology of holy well-name development and sets it in the context of a specifically Christian veneration which developed naturally to form part of the cult of saints in the later Middle Ages.


Editors' note

   We regret that the current limitations on the capabilities of fonts in html coding mean that we are unable to show the macrons over vowels in certain place-name elements used by Jeremy Harte in the article which follows.   Please note that in all cases where the following words are used in the text, they should be read as follows:-


word cited in text correct form
anglo.gif (2994 bytes) saxon.gif (2641 bytes)



Editors' note


The significance of 'holy'

Pagan or Christian sanctity?

A chronology of well-names

Cultural development and well-names

What a picture!

What a picture!

Final thoughts



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