St. Davids Cathedral – St Davids
The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in 589. Between 645 and 1097, the community was attacked many times by raiders, including the Vikings, however it was of such note as both a religious and intellectual centre that King Alfred summoned help from the monastic community at St Davids in rebuilding the intellectual life of the Kingdom of Wessex. Many of the bishops were murdered by raiders and marauders, including Bishop Moregenau in 999, and Bishop Abraham in 1080. The stone, which marked his grave, known as the "Abraham Stone", is intricately carved with early Celtic symbols and now on permanent display within the Cathedral Exhibition at Porth-y-Tŵr.
In 1081, William the Conqueror visited St Davids to pray, and thus recognised it as a holy and respected place. In 1089, the shrine of David was vandalised, and stripped of its precious metals. In 1090, the Welsh scholar Rhigyfarch wrote his Latin “Life of David”, highlighting David's sanctity, thus beginning the almost cult-like status he achieved.
In 1115, with the area under Norman control, King Henry I of England appointed Bishop Bernard as Bishop of St Davids. He began to improve life within the community, and commenced construction of a new Cathedral. In 1123, Pope Calixtus II granted Bishop Bernard’s request to bestow a Papal privilege upon St Davids, making it a centre of pilgrimage for the Western world, the Pope decreeing “Two pilgrimages to St Davids is equal to one to Rome, and three pilgrimages to one to Jerusalem” The new Cathedral was quickly constructed. Bishop Bernard consecrated the new Cathedral in 1131. Henry II of England’s visit in 1171 saw the following of David increase – and the need for a larger Cathedral.
The present Cathedral was begun in 1181, and completed not long after. Problems beset the new building and the community in its infancy; the collapse of the new tower in 1220, and earthquake damage in 1247/48.
Under Bishop Gower (1328–1347) the Cathedral was modified further, with the rood screen and the Bishops Palace, intended as permanent reminders of his episcopacy. (The Palace is now a picturesque ruin.)
In 1365, Bishop Adam Houghton and John of Gaunt began to build St Mary's College, a chantry, and Houghton later added the cloister which connects it to the cathedral.
The dissolution of the Monarchy and the establishment of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell had great effect on many cathedrals andchurches, particularly felt in St Davids. The Cathedral was all but destroyed by Cromwell’s forces, and the lead stripped from the Bishop’s Palace roof.
David's symbol, which is now a national symbol of Wales, is the leek. David rose to become a bishop in the church and made several pilgrimages including one to Jerusalem during which, tradition states, he brought back with him a stone which now sits in an altar in the south transept of the cathedral.
For the past 1500 years prayer and worship has been offered on a daily basis which still continues to this day. A must see, if wanting to escape the rain and take advantage of some local history and culture. The Cathedral also has a cafe, The Refectory, which serves delicious food and drink, including freshly made sandwiches and cakes on offer, plus excellent tea and coffee, all to be enjoyed in one of the most beautiful spaces in Wales.
To experience this mystical area for yourself, book a self catering holiday in one of our many West Wales cottages.