The man we all know as St David, or Dewi Sant in Welsh, lived within the sixth century within the west of the island of Britain. He based a monastic group on the location of what’s now St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.
David was celebrated in each Wales and Ireland, however what we learn about him and his followers largely comes from the Latin textual content, Vita S. David (Life of St David), which was written by the writer Rhygyfarch in round 1080.
Rhygyfarch was a member of a clerical group at Llanbadarn Fawr, which is in modern-day Ceredigion, west Wales. His writing is proof of the lasting cult related to Saint David and the numerous medieval church buildings devoted to him all through Wales. By “cult”, we imply the continued devotion to David’s life and work.
Rhygyfarch’s writing in some methods presents us with two completely different Davids. The first is the archbishop who would turn out to be the patron of a serious native church in addition to a nation. The different is the abbot of a hermit-like group, who required his monks to reside on little greater than bread and water.
But, in keeping with Rhygyfarch, they weren’t allowed an excessive amount of even of these, as “being stuffed to extra, even with bread by itself, offers rise to dissipation [self-indulgence]”. The ideally suited setting for this considerably cheerless routine was a distant place, away from the temptations of secular life.
Experts have cause to consider that Rhygyfarch’s account of David is genuine as a result of the monastic programme he described corresponds intently to the rule of an nameless abbot who was witheringly criticised by the sixth century churchman and writer, Gildas. Gildas was the writer of the earliest surviving historical past of Britain, De Excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain), by which he blamed the Britons for his or her defeat by the Saxons.
David’s austerity, which noticed him nicknamed aquaticus (waterman) by Rhygyfarch and others, seems to be genuine. And it goes some option to explaining why we discover his nice cathedral in a marshy valley on the excessive fringe of south-west Wales.
Rhygyfarch’s writing impressed various later texts, together with the Welsh language Buchedd Dewi, which was written within the 14th century. In it, it says that David’s final phrases have been “gwnewch y pethau bychain”, which implies “do the little issues”.
Welsh courtroom poets earlier than the English conquest of Wales in 1282 would invoke David as a saint who represented the nationwide curiosity of Wales, whereas later poets insisted on his superiority to different saints.
Most strikingly, the saint was drawn into the wealthy custom of poetic prophecy. This asserted that the Welsh folks would sooner or later win their nation again from the English.
It was a convention recorded from the tenth century onward and which endured till the Reformation within the sixteenth century, when the Church of England broke away from the Catholic Church.
The cathedral at St Davids is an instance of the extent of the medieval devotion to David. It is not any easy architectural effort. Its building began in 1182 and it’s a richly-decorated masterpiece. The surrounding terrain was difficult, so presumably the placement was non-negotiable. The constructing fell down twice, firstly in 1220 after which in 1248, earlier than stability was finally achieved.
Bishops in 1538 and 1666, who have been unsympathetic to pilgrimage and aware of religious issues, tried to maneuver the bishop’s throne 45 miles east to the city of Carmarthen. That they failed is testimony to the seismic drive of the cult of St David.
This 12 months marks the ninth centenary of a papal bull (a decree) issued by Pope Calixtus II confirming the estates and buildings of the bishops of Menevia (the Latin identify of the diocese of St Davids, generally known as Mynyw in Welsh).
Contrary to well-liked perception, Calixtus didn’t canonise St David, as a result of it was not required of an early saint. The English historian, William of Malmesbury, writing within the 1120s, mentioned Calixtus inspired pilgrims to go to Menevia, as a result of “those that went twice to St Davids ought to have the identical privileges in the way in which of benediction as these as those that went as soon as to Rome”.
Later Welsh poets picked up on the identical formulation to advertise the significance of the cathedral. In the late 14th century, the poet Iolo Goch reiterated that two pilgrimages to St Davids have been equal to 1 pilgrimage to Rome, and added that three to St Davids equalled one to Jerusalem.
The bard Ieuan ap Rhydderch, writing within the first half of the fifteenth century, repeated this in his lengthy poem devoted to David and declared “Nid gwell sant, ffyniant ei ffawd / Na Dewi (“There is not any higher saint than Dewi, luck his blessing”).
David died in round AD600. A reference to his banner main the Welsh forces within the tenth-century prophetic poem, Armes Prydein, means that by that time he was regarded as the patron saint of the Welsh folks.
The feast of St David on March 1 was a spiritual competition up till the Reformation. It then survived as a nationwide day of commemoration all through the next centuries.
The cult of Dewi Sant lives on to the current day as a potent image of Welsh nationwide id.
Jonathan Wooding is member of the Diocesan Tourism Working Party of the Diocese of St Davids.
He has beforehand labored in conjuction with St Davids Cathedral and Diocese on historic initiatives.
Helen Fulton doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.