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Saint David

Saint David

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Saint David was a Welsh Bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 during the 6th century; he was later regarded as a saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 and as the patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. David was a native of Wales, and a relatively large amount of information is known about his life. However, his birth date is still uncertain, as suggestions range from 462 to 512. The Annales Cambriae
Annales Cambriae
Annales Cambriae, or The Annals of Wales, is the name given to a complex of Cambro-Latin chronicles deriving ultimately from a text compiled from diverse sources at St David's in Dyfed, Wales, not later than the 10th century...

 has his death at 601, which would move his birth date forward.

Early life


David became a pupil of Saint Illtud
Illtud
Illtyd , was a Welsh saint, founder and abbot of Llanilltud Fawr in the Welsh county of Glamorgan...

 at Llanilltud Fawr
Llantwit Major
Llantwit Major is a small coastal town and community in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, lying on the Bristol Channel coast. A small stream, the Afon Col-huw, runs through the town.-Local government:...

  like Saints Samson of Dol
Samson of Dol
Saint Samson of Dol was a Christian religious figure who is counted among the seven founder saints of Brittany. Born in southern Wales, he died in Dol-de-Bretagne, a small town in north Brittany.-Life:...

, Gildas
Gildas
Gildas was a 6th-century British cleric. He is one of the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British Isles during this period. His renowned learning and literary style earned him the designation Gildas Sapiens...

 and Paul Aurelian
Paul Aurelian
Paul Aurelian is a 6th century Welsh saint, who became one of the seven founder saints of Brittany....

. Rhygyfarch, the late 11th century author of the saint's life story (see below), wrote that David was the son of sanctus rex ceredigionis, where Sanctus has been interpreted as a proper name and its owner honoured by Welsh Christians as Sandde, King of Ceredigion
Kingdom of Ceredigion
The Kingdom of Ceredigion was one of several Welsh kingdoms that emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain. Its area corresponded roughly to that of the modern county of Ceredigion. The kingdom's hilly geography made it difficult for foreign invaders to conquer. Cardigan Bay bordered to the west...

. However, this Latin phrase can equally well mean simply "holy king of Ceredigion". The king of Ceredigion
Kingdom of Ceredigion
The Kingdom of Ceredigion was one of several Welsh kingdoms that emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain. Its area corresponded roughly to that of the modern county of Ceredigion. The kingdom's hilly geography made it difficult for foreign invaders to conquer. Cardigan Bay bordered to the west...

 around the time of David's birth would have been Usai. According to Rhygyfarch, Sandde was his brother, so probably only a king of part of Ceredigion. They were sons of King Ceredig
Ceredig
Ceredig ap Cunedda, , king of Ceredigion, may have been born c. 420 AD in the Brythonic kingdom of Manaw Gododdin , centred on the Firth of Forth in the area known as Yr Hen Ogledd.Little is known of him...

, founder of Ceredigion. The saint was conceived through violence and his mother, St. Non
Saint Non
Non was, according to Christian tradition, the mother of Saint David , the patron saint of Wales.-Legend:...

, the daughter of Lord Cynyr of Caer Goch (in Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county town is Haverfordwest where Pembrokeshire County Council is headquartered....

), gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm
Storm
A storm is any disturbed state of an astronomical body's atmosphere, especially affecting its surface, and strongly implying severe weather...

. The site is marked by the Chapel of St Non
Chapel of St Non
thumb|right|St Non's ChapelThe Chapel of St Non is located on the coast near St David's in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Held by tradition to mark the birthplace of St David, the ruin cannot be accurately dated but is unusual in that it is aligned north-south rather than the usual east-west. Near to...

. David was educated at what is usually taken to be Whitland
Whitland
Whitland is a small town in Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales, lying on the River Tâf. Whitland is home to the elusive "Whitland Trout" noted for its eggs and oily scales.- History :...

 in Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire is a unitary authority in the south west of Wales and one of thirteen historic counties. It is the 3rd largest in Wales. Its three largest towns are Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford...

 under Saint Paulinus of Wales
Paulinus of Wales
Saint Paulinus of Wales was a late 5th century Welsh holyman, revered as a saint in Carmarthenshire.Paulinus lived as a hermit and teacher at a place usually identified as Whitland , Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales. There he was the tutor of both Saint David and Saint Teilo. He founded churches...

 and was baptised by St. Ailbe
Saint Ailbe
Saint Ailbe was a sixth-century Irish bishop.He is sometimes claimed as one of the pre-Patrician Saints, with Ciaran, Declan, and Ibar, but the annals note his death in 528 . A tradition held that he went to Rome and was ordained bishop by the Pope...

, Bishop of Emly
Bishop of Emly
The Bishop of Emly was an episcopal title which took its name after the village of Emly in County Tipperary, Ireland. The title was used by the Church of Ireland until 1569 and by the Roman Catholic Church until 1718...

.

Monasticism


Many of the traditional tales about David are found in the Buchedd Dewi, a hagiography
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 written by Rhygyfarch in the late 11th century. Rhygyfarch claimed it was based on documents found in the cathedral archives. Modern historians are sceptical of some of its claims: one of Rhygyfarch's aims was to establish some independence for the Welsh church, which had refused the Roman rite until the 8th century and now, following the Norman invasion
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

 of England in 1066, was to seek a metropolitan status equal to that of Canterbury.

He became renowned as a teacher and preacher, founding monastic settlement
Monastic settlement
Monastic settlements are areas built up in and around the development of monasteries with the spread of Christianity.These settlements are of historic interest as the development of a monastery typically spurred other settlement developments over many hundred of years which may be rich in...

s and churches in Wales, Dumnonia
Dumnonia
Dumnonia is the Latinised name for the Brythonic kingdom in sub-Roman Britain between the late 4th and late 8th centuries, located in the farther parts of the south-west peninsula of Great Britain...

 and Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 in a period when neighbouring tribal regions (that were to be overrun by Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 or Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 tribes over the following three hundred years) were still mostly pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

. He rose to a bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

ric and presided over two synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

s as well as going on pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

s to Jerusalem (where he was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriarch
Patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

) and Rome. St David's Cathedral
St David's Cathedral
St David's Cathedral is situated in St David's in the county of Pembrokeshire, on the most westerly point of Wales.-Early history:The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in AD589...

 stands on the site of the monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 he founded in the 'Glyn Rhosyn' valley in Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county town is Haverfordwest where Pembrokeshire County Council is headquartered....

.

The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks had to pull the plough
Plough
The plough or plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture...

 themselves without draught animals, must drink only water eat only bread with salt and herbs and spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed: to say "my book" was an offence. He lived a simple life
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 and practiced asceticism
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

, teaching his followers to refrain from eating meat
Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism encompasses the practice of following plant-based diets , with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs, and with the exclusion of meat...

 or drinking beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

. His symbol, also the symbol of Wales, is the leek (this is questioned by some authorities and largely comes from reference in Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's Henry V, VI 1). His emblem is a dove
Dove
Pigeons and doves constitute the bird family Columbidae within the order Columbiformes, which include some 300 species of near passerines. In general terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably...

.


His best-known miracle
Miracle
A miracle often denotes an event attributed to divine intervention. Alternatively, it may be an event attributed to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that a god may work with the laws...

 is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Brefi
Synod of Brefi
The Synod of Brefi was a church council held at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, Wales around 545.The synod was apparently called in order to condemn the heretical teachings of Pelagius, although this is far from certain. It was an important milestone in the rise of Saint David...

: the village of Llanddewi Brefi
Llanddewi Brefi
Llanddewi Brefi is a village of approximately 500 people in Ceredigion, Wales.In the 6th century, Saint David , the patron saint of Wales, held the Synod of Brefi here and it has borne his name since; "Llan" referring in Welsh place names to a church or holy place. The parish church is dedicated...

 is said to stand on the spot where the miracle occurred. When those at the back complained that they could not see or hear him the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. A white dove was seen settling on his shoulder — a sign of God's grace and blessing. John Davies notes that one can scarcely "conceive of any miracle more superfluous" in that part of Wales than the creation of a new hill. A more mundane interpretation is that he simply recommended that the synod participants move to the hilltop. In works of art, David is frequently shown with a dove on his shoulder. It is significant that David is said to have denounced Pelagianism
Pelagianism
Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius , although he denied, at least at some point in his life, many of the doctrines associated with his name. It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without...

 during this incident and that he was anointed archbishop by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, a position confirmed at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi
Synod of Brefi
The Synod of Brefi was a church council held at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, Wales around 545.The synod was apparently called in order to condemn the heretical teachings of Pelagius, although this is far from certain. It was an important milestone in the rise of Saint David...

 by popular acclaim according to Rhygyfarch. The claim of St David's Metropolitan Status as an archbishopric (and thus of the same status as Canterbury) was later supported by Bernard, Bishop of St David's
Bernard, Bishop of St David's
Bernard was a Norman Bishop of St David's, appointed by Henry I. He also served as Chancellor to Queen Adeliza. He was the last bishop to dispute the primacy of the see of Canterbury. He founded Whitland Abbey....

, Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur...

 and Gerald of Wales.

Connections to Glastonbury


Rhygyfarch stated that Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

 was amongst the many churches David founded. Around forty years later William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

 believing the Abbey was older than this, said that David visited Glastonbury
Glastonbury
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry point on the low lying Somerset Levels, south of Bristol. The town, which is in the Mendip district, had a population of 8,784 in the 2001 census...

 intending only to rededicate the Abbey, as well as to donate a travelling altar including a great sapphire
Sapphire
Sapphire is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide , when it is a color other than red or dark pink; in which case the gem would instead be called a ruby, considered to be a different gemstone. Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium can give...

. He had a vision of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, who said that "the church had been dedicated long ago by Himself in honour of His Mother, and it was not seemly that it should be re-dedicated by human hands". So David instead commissioned an extension to be built to the abbey, east of the Old Church. (The dimensions of this extension given by William were verified archaeologically in 1921). One manuscript indicates that a sapphire altar was among the items King Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 confiscated from the abbey at its dissolution a thousand years later. There are unverifiable indications that the sapphire may now be among the Crown Jewels
Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom
The collective term Crown Jewels denotes the regalia and vestments worn by the sovereign of the United Kingdom during the coronation ceremony and at other state functions...

.

Death




It is claimed that David lived for over 100 years, and he died on a Tuesday 1 March (now St David's Day). It is generally accepted that this was around 590, making the actual year 589. The monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul.' His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. Rhygyfarch transcribes these as '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' ('Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd') is today a very well known phrase in Welsh.

David was buried at St David's Cathedral
St David's Cathedral
St David's Cathedral is situated in St David's in the county of Pembrokeshire, on the most westerly point of Wales.-Early history:The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in AD589...

 at St David's
St David's
St Davids , is a city and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Lying on the River Alun on St David's Peninsula, it is Britain's smallest city in terms of both size and population, the final resting place of Saint David, the country's patron saint, and the de facto ecclesiastical capital of...

, Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county town is Haverfordwest where Pembrokeshire County Council is headquartered....

, where his shrine
Shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

 was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. During the 10th and 11th centuries the Cathedral was regularly raided by Vikings who removed the shrine from the church and stripped off the precious metal adornments. In 1275 a new shrine was constructed, the ruined base of which remains to this day (see photo), which was originally surmounted by an ornamental wooden canopy with murals of St David, St Patrick and St Denis of France. The relics of St David and St Justinian were kept in a portable casket on the stone base of the shrine. It was at this shrine that Edward I came to pray in 1284. During the reformation Bishop Barlow (1536–48), a staunch Protestant, stripped the shrine of its jewels and confiscated the relics of David and Justinian.

Reputation


David's popularity in Wales is shown by the Armes Prydein Fawr
Armes Prydein
Armes Prydein is an early 10th-century Welsh prophetic poem from the Book of Taliesin.In a rousing style characteristic of Welsh heroic poetry, it describes a future where all of Brythonic peoples are allied with the Scots, the Irish, and the Vikings of Dublin under Welsh leadership, and together...

 c.930, a popular prophetic poem in which the poet prophesied that in the future, when all might seem lost, the Cymry (the Welsh people) would unite behind the standard of David to defeat the English; A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant ("And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi").

Unlike many contemporary 'saints' of Wales, David was officially recognised by the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 by Pope Callixtus II
Pope Callixtus II
Pope Calixtus II , born Guy de Vienne, the fourth son of William I, Count of Burgundy , was elected Pope on February 1, 1119, after the death of Pope Gelasius II . His pontificate was shaped by the Investiture Controversy, which he was able to settle through the Concordat of Worms...

 in 1120, thanks to the work of Bernard, Bishop of St David's
Bernard, Bishop of St David's
Bernard was a Norman Bishop of St David's, appointed by Henry I. He also served as Chancellor to Queen Adeliza. He was the last bishop to dispute the primacy of the see of Canterbury. He founded Whitland Abbey....

. Music for his office
Liturgy of the hours
The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church to be recited at the canonical hours by the clergy, religious orders, and laity. The Liturgy of the Hours consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns and readings...

 has been edited by O.T. Edwards in Matins, Lauds and Vespers for St David’s Day: the Medieval Office of the Welsh Patron Saint in National Library of Wales MS 20541 E (Cambridge, 1990)

David's life and teachings have inspired a choral work by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins
Karl Jenkins
-Other works:*Adiemus: Live — live versions of Adiemus music*Palladio *Eloise *Imagined Oceans *The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace...

, Dewi Sant
Dewi Sant
Dewi Sant may refer to:*Saint David*Dewi Sant, an oratorio by Arwel Hughes*Dewi Sant, a work for SATB chorus and orchestra by Karl Jenkins...

. It is a seven-movement work that is best known for the classical crossover series Adiemus
Adiemus
-Concept:Each Adiemus album is a collection of song-length pieces featuring harmonised vocal melody against an orchestral background. There are no lyrics as such: instead the vocalists sing syllables and 'words' invented by Jenkins...

, which intersperses movements reflecting the themes of David's last sermon with those drawing from three Psalms. An oratorio
Oratorio
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...

 by another Welsh composer Arwel Hughes
Arwel Hughes
Arwel Hughes OBE , was a Welsh orchestral conductor and composer.Hughes was born in Rhosllannerchrugog near Wrexham and was educated at Ruabon Grammar School and at the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Ralph Vaughan Williams and C. H. Kitson...

, also entitled Dewi Sant
Dewi Sant
Dewi Sant may refer to:*Saint David*Dewi Sant, an oratorio by Arwel Hughes*Dewi Sant, a work for SATB chorus and orchestra by Karl Jenkins...

, was composed in 1950.

Saint David is also thought to be associated with corpse candles, lights that would warn of the imminent death of a member of the community. The story goes that David prayed for his people to have some warning of their death, so that they could prepare themselves. In a vision, David's wish was granted and told that from then on, people who lived in the land of Dewi Sant
Dewi Sant
Dewi Sant may refer to:*Saint David*Dewi Sant, an oratorio by Arwel Hughes*Dewi Sant, a work for SATB chorus and orchestra by Karl Jenkins...

 (Saint David) "would be forewarned by the dim light of mysterious tapers when and where the death might be expected." The color and/or size of the tapers indicated whether the person to die would be a woman, man, or child.

See also

  • Christian vegetarianism
    Christian vegetarianism
    Christian vegetarianism is a minority Christian belief based on effecting the compassionate teachings of Jesus, the twelve apostles and the early church to all living beings through vegetarianism or, ideally, veganism...

  • St David's Cathedral
    St David's Cathedral
    St David's Cathedral is situated in St David's in the county of Pembrokeshire, on the most westerly point of Wales.-Early history:The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in AD589...

  • St David's Day
  • Corpse Candles

External links