Have You ever heard of a Saint on whose shoulder a white dove – symbol of peace – landed, and then, a hillock rose beneath Him, making this miracle visible for all the people of Llanddewi Brefi? We are of course talking of the famous patron of Wales – Saint David. Let’s zoom in a bit and learn some interesting facts from His life in the sixth century.
Who was St. David?
Dewi Sant was a monk, bishop and abbot – a Christian Saint acting in a Celtic world. David was taught in a monastery. His life was connected with St. Davids (Mynyw) and a local teaching monastery founded by Him.
Incidentally, he was the founder of twelve further monasteries (i.e. Glastonbury, Bath, Crowland & Repton, Colve & Glascwm, Leominster, Raglan and Llangyfelach) and a lot of churches in Wales, Dumnonia and Brittany.
He was recognised as the Patron Saint of Wales much later than He lived; in the sixteenth century. Though, earlier in the 12th century, Pope Calixtus devoted a cathedral to Saints David and Andrew. The same pope decreed that two pilgrimages to St. Davids was equal to one to Rome.
In the first half of the twelfth century a proper canonization took place. St. David was one of the most important places of pilgrimage.
Even William the Conqueror, Henry II, Edward I and Queen Eleanor visited it. King Edward had a relic bone of Saint David in his own home! (2) With time, more than 50 churches in south Wales were devoted to Dewi Sant. In 1398 the day of Saint David was established, and it is still celebrated annually on the 1st of March. This is to commemorate the day of His death (1st of March 589).
St. David miracles
Interestingly the miracle mentioned at the beginning of this blog, was only one of a number of examples of “super-natural” or extraordinary events associated with the “Prince of Cambrian Saint”(1). For instance, it was told that he resurrected a widow’s dead child, survived eating poisoned bread and restored the sight of his teacher, Paulinus. Also, St David was believed to have been born on a cliff top, during a strong storm. (4)
What were some of the challenges that faced St. David living in the Celtic epoch?
From the one point of view, a particular attachment to nature and community with animals were typical for those times. However, from the second point of view, Celtic settlements are recorded as being associated with a lot of cruelty. He was resuscitating and propagating Christianity among Celtic tribes. It was not an easy task at all, as one would imagine, but He proved successful.
How was Saint David artistically represented?
He is often presented with a dove on His shoulder, as per that miraculous event with a dove and hillock mentioned earlier in this article. He is also associated with a leek (symbol of purity & immortality) and a black-yellow flag (yellow cross on black background).
There is also a St. David’s rose with white petals.
His height was 6 feet (2 m)(2). There is a beautiful stained glass window with St David at Castell Coch in Cardiff.
St David The Waterman
This anti-beer preacher and ascetic was the son of Prince of Keretica and is believed to be King Arthurs’s nephew (5). He used to eat bread, herbs, watercress and drink plenty of water.
“Dewi the waterman, faithful is he
Dafydd the chief saint of Christendom.”
(Ieuan ap Rhydderch)
His nickname was “waterman”. Despite some common fears connected with a vegetarian diet, He was strong and purported to have died at the age of 147! (5)
This Saint dedicated his life to Lord and humanity. Dying, He said: “Brothers and Sisters, be cheerful and keep your faith and belief, and do the little things that you have heard and seen through me.”(2)
– E.J. Newell (1)
– “St David of Dewisland” – Nona Rees, 1992 (2)
– St. David Wikipedia (3)
– Catholic Encyclopedia (5)