St. Bernard's Well

Tom Gomez

Joined January 2008

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Artist's Description

According to tradition, St. Bernard’s Well near Stockbridge in Edinburgh, Scotland was re-discovered by three Heriot’s school boys while fishing in the Water of Leith in 1760. Legend has it that it was originally discovered by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder of the Cistercian Order, in the 12th Century. After being poorly received at court, and suffering from a sickness, he went to live in a cave near the Water of Leith. There, he found the spring and drank its healing waters until his strength returned.

Chemical analysis revealed that the water was similar to the sulphur springs at Harrogate in Yorkshire.

In September 1760 the mineral spring was covered by a small wellhouse. In 1789, the present construction, a circular Roman Temple was commissioned by Lord Gardenstone. This elegant architectural structure in the form of a Doric rotunda is inspired by the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli in Italy. Under the lead dome stands a marble statue of Hygieia, Goddess of Health.

In 1885, the well and grounds were purchased by the publishers Thomas Nelson & Sons. After restoration, it was left to the City of Edinburgh. The pump-room was refurbished in lavish Victorian style. The interior was designed like a celestial vault sparkling with sequin-like stars when sunlight strikes through the stained glass windows. The white marble pedestal is inscribed BIBENDO VALEBIS (By Drinking You Will Be Well).

The revitalised well remained popular until its closure in 1940, following the outbreak of war. Remarkable claims continued to be made for its medicinal properties, ranging from the efficacy of a regular morning glass as a tonic for the system to a complete cure-all for rheumatism and arthritis. The temple then resembled a continental cafe with ‘little tables where regulars chatted with friends’. Aerated water from the well was even bottled and marketed for a short while.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Digital Rebel XSi in the USA)

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Three bracketed JPGs converted to HDR in Photomatix Pro.

Related shots can be found at: Edinburgh or you can look at all my HDR shots.

Artwork Comments

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