Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Saint David

Welsh: Dewi Sant

Saint David is the patron saint of Wales. He is a prominent figure in Welsh history. While some details about his life are steeped in legend, there are several key aspects associated with Saint David.

Born in the sixth century, most likely around 496-500, Saint David was believed to have been born on the southwest coast of Wales. He was a descendant of Welsh royalty and hailed from the noble family of Ceredigion. According to tradition, his mother, Non, conceived him during a violent storm, adding to the miraculous elements surrounding his birth.

Saint David played a crucial role in the spread of Christianity in Wales and is often credited with founding numerous monastic settlements across the region. His most renowned foundations is the monastery at Glyn Rhosyn, which later became St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.

The life of Saint David is intertwined with various miracles and legends. Perhaps the most famous miracle attributed to him is the raising of a hill during a sermon. As he preached to a large crowd, the ground beneath him elevated, forming a small hill so that his voice could be heard more clearly.

Another notable aspect of Saint David’s legacy is his involvement in the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi (called to address a dispute and restore unity among the Welsh clergy). According to accounts, during this synod, David’s preaching was initially met with skepticism due to his relatively humble appearance. However, as he began speaking, a dove descended upon his shoulder, and his words were said to have been miraculously amplified. This event convinced the assembled crowd of his divine authority.

There is historical evidence to support the claim that the Archbishop of Caerleon resigned his seat to Saint David in 577. The account is found in the “Book of Llandaff,” an ecclesiastical record from the 12th century that includes various historical and legendary information about the early Christian Church in Wales.

According to the “Book of Llandaff,” Saint David was appointed as the successor to Saint Dubricius, who, when he decided to retire, is said to have resigned his position and transferred the responsibilities and authority to Saint David. This event is significant because it marks the transition of ecclesiastical power from Caerleon (or Caerleon-on-Usk) to Saint David and the establishment of Saint David’s as a center of religious authority. The shift in power contributed to the growth and prominence of Saint David’s monastery and its subsequent development as a major religious site in Wales.

The exact details of Saint David’s death are uncertain, but it is believed to have occured around the year 589. His final words to his followers are said to have been,

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.

Saint David is connected to Arthur in the Welsh Life of St. Cadoc and in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia. In he former, he joins Saint Teilo and Saint Cadoc in mediating a dispute between Arthur and a warrior named Ligessauc. The saints successfully convinced Arthur to accept one hundred cows in return for the lives of three knights slain by Ligessauc.

According to Geoffrey, Saint David was born to Prince Xantus of Cereticu (Cardiganshire) and a nun named Malearia, he was an uncle of Arthur. A Welsh manuscript makes him Arthur’s grand-nephew, and in Brut y Brenhinedd, a medieval Welsh history, he is Arthur’s second cousin.

According to certain accounts, Saint David visited Glastonbury and had a significant role in its early Christian history. One of the most well-known legends is the story of Joseph of Arimathea, who is said to have brought the Holy Grail – the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper – to Glastonbury. In some versions of the legend, Joseph of Arimathea is accompanied by Saint David during his journey to Glastonbury.

Additionally, Glastonbury Abbey, a significant religious site in Glastonbury, has a connection to the saint. It is believed that a chapel dedicated to Saint David once stood within the abbey grounds. This chapel, known as “David’s Chapel,” was reportedly destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century.

Furthermore, Glastonbury has associations with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. According to some legends, Saint David attended the coronation of King Arthur in Glastonbury, emphasizing his connection to the Arthurian lore.