St David – who exactly was he?

Last summer I ticked off one of my “must do’s”.  I visited St David’s in Pembrokeshire as part of a wonderful few days away with William.   St David’s had always fascinated me from afar and it almost felt as though to visit there would be a pilgrimage for me.

Wales has always been very important in my life, although I’m not actually Welsh.  My mother is part Welsh;  called Bronwen she couldn’t be anything else really! I have family in the Valleys in South Wales where I spent many a wonderful family holiday when I was young.  I studied in Cardiff for a short time, and spent all my student summers and Easters working at a hotel in North Wales.   I support the Welsh rugby team,  much to the annoyance of my husband…

So visiting St David’s felt very important to me – a religious and special experience.  And to be fair the experience didn’t let me down.  It (the Cathedral primarily) really is a very special place to visit – peaceful, contemplative,  beautiful, simple and inspiring.

St David’s Day is a celebration of Welsh identity and culture.  The 1st March was designated as the feast day of St David in the late 14th century and was celebrated in churches throughout Wales and England.  The protestant reformation in the 16th century resulted in the disappearance of the feast days, with the St Davids Day celebration being then reinstated in the 18th century.

St David, as with many other saints and their legends, appears to be based on a firm foundation of fact.  The son of Sant (or Sanctus), a King of Ceredigion and Non, a nobelwoman, he was born on the site of Nons Chapel on the outskirts of St Davids in the 6th Century.  Throughout his life miraculous events occurred around him and he founded a monastery which is on the site of the current St David’s Cathedral.

The Christian culture he experienced and preached about was based up on the Celtic Christian culture from the early Roman church and he preached throughout South Wales and western England and founded for example, Glastonbury (another of my magical pilgrimage sites) as a Christian religious centre.

St David was recognised as a saint by the Church in the 12th century and his shrine in St Davids Cathedral became a popular pilgrimage destination, Pope Calixtus II decreed that two pilgrimages to St David’s were equivalent to one to Rome.

One of his most notable miracles was when he was speaking at a synod and the ground rose beneath him and a dove settled on his shoulder (he is also the patron saint of doves).  His final advice to his monks was to “Be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.”  Beautiful in its simplicity.  I think I would have liked St David.

So on the 1st of March I will spend a few minutes contemplating and following St David’s words of advice.

Happy St Davids Day.

 

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