Nothing historical is known of the saints whose relics were discovered in
Gheel in the XIII Century: a brick found with the coffins bore the name
Dympna. Shortly after the opening of the grave site, reports that
epileptics and lunatics had been cured because of St. Dympna began to
circulate, and after the XIV Century, the citizens of Gheel established a
system of care for these people, who came to Gheel to be healed. The town
is still home to a mental hospital with a high rate of cure.
Legends say that Dympna was the daughter of a pagan Celtic chieftan from,
variously, Ireland, Britain, or Brittany. After the death of his wife,
this leader developed an incestuous passion for his daughter, who fled to
Belgium with her confessor, Gerebermus. When her father found them, he
killed the two Christians.
Karen Rae Keck
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