ST DAVID – WALES AND BEYOND
St David was born in Pembrokeshire around 500 AD to Sant, a prince of Cardigan, and St Non, the daughter of a chieftain. Little is known about his life. He was brought up near Aberaeron and is said to have been baptised by St Elvis of Munster. David was educated at a monastery under St Paulinus who, recognising his great potential to spread the word of Christianity, sent David on pilgrimages around Wales, Cornwall, Britanny, Ireland and Jerusalem.
St David died on March 1st, 589. His remains were buried in St David's Cathedral. Although his shrine was later removed by Vikings, a new shrine was constructed there in the 13th Century.
It is said St David founded 12 monasteries and performed several miracles. Canonised by Pope Callixtus in 1120, St David has been recognised as patron saint of Wales since the 12th century.
St David’s Day is celebrated by Welsh societies around the world. St David’s Day celebrations are still held by the descendants of those who emigrated from Wales to Patagonia in 1865.
While preaching to a crowd in the West Wales village of Llanddewi Brefi, David is said to have performed his most famous miracle. The crowd were finding it difficult to see and hear the sermon, when a white dove landed on David’s shoulder. As it did, the ground on which he stood is said to have risen up to form a mighty hill, making it possible for the gathering crowd to finally see and hear him. The dove became St David’s emblem, often appearing in his portraits and on stained-glass windows depicting him.
• Monasteries founded by St David were known for their extreme austerity. Monks abstained from worldly pleasures and carried out hard farming duties on a basic diet. Some monks were so fed up of St David’s harsh regime they even tried to poison his bread. Fortunately he survived.
• The 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how Welsh St David’s Day celebrations in London would spark wider counter-celebrations among their English neighbours, with life-sized effigies of Welshmen being symbolically lynched.
Welsh tradition says that during a battle against the Anglo-Saxons, David advised the Welsh warriors to wear a leek in their hats or armour so that the warriors might distinguish themselves from their enemies. Ever since then, the Welsh wear leeks every March 1st in memory.