by ehistoryadmin on February 29, 2024

St. David’s Day

John Walsh

The feast day of Saint David is  1st March and marks the date of his death, which is stated to have occurred in the year 589. He is the patron saint of Wales and unlike the other national saints of these islands Saint George, Saint Andrew and Saint Patrick he is the native of the country of which he is patron. David (Dewi in Welsh) was born in Caerfai, Pembrokeshire and was baptised by Saint Ailbe. His mother was stated to be Saint Non and his father Usai, a King of Ceredigion.  He was conceived through violence and his mother gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm.

The place of his birth is marked by the Chapel of St Non, close to the city of St. David’s. He became renowned as a preacher and teacher and founded monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. He undertook pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome and presided over two synods. His last sermon to his followers was “Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us. Do the little things in life.”

David was buried at St. David’s Cathedral, a monastery that he founded in on the River Alyn on the St. David’s peninsula in Pembrokeshire. The site was known in the Welsh language as Mynyw and in Latin as Menevia and was later renamed in honour of St. David.

His shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Pope Calixtus II decreed in 1123 that two pilgrimages to St. David’s shrine were equivalent to one to Rome and because of this a vast amount on income accrued to the Cathedral.

St. David is generally depicted as a Bishop with a dove resting on his shoulder – a sign of God’s grace and blessing. His symbol, also the symbol of Wales, is the leek.

The Monastic Rule of Saint David was that his monks had to pull the plough themselves without draught animals; to drink only water, eat only bread with salt and herbs and to spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed and his followers refrained from eating meat and drinking beer. The banner of St. David is black with a yellow cross and a popular prophetic poem from circa 930 states that in the future, when all might seem lost, the Welsh people will unite to follow David as their leader and defeat the English.

St. David’s is the smallest city in the United Kingdom with a population of 1,800 and is located in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Queen Elizabeth II renewed its city status in 1994 – Cardiff, Bangor, Newport and Swansea are the other Welsh cities. St. David’s Peninsula is an important headland on sea trading routes that date back to ancient times and juts into the Atlantic. It’s an inspiring place of great beauty. The landscape is dotted with Neolithic tombs and Bronze Age stones, healing wells and tiny chapels tracing to Celtic Christianity. The Cathedral at St David’s has had a turbulent history having been constantly raided by the Vikings. In 1248 the site was badly damaged by an earthquake and in 1648 it was ransacked by Parliamentary soldiers. William the Conqueror visited St. David’s in 1081 and recognised its strategic importance in relation to Ireland and England. Henry II visited St. David’s in 1171 and construction of the present Cathedral began in 1181.


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