There is nothing more Welsh than St. David’s Day, the feast and celebration that falls on March 1 and honours the patron saint of Wales, Saint David — the greatest figure in the 6th century, Welsh Age of Saints, founder of dozens of religious communities, and the only native-born patron saint of Britain and Ireland. St. David, a renowned teacher and the founder of what is now St. David’s Cathedral, was renowned for his pious austerity, commitment to eschew sensual pleasures in favour of spiritual enlightenment, and miraculous abilities. Due to his life and works, St. David’s Day is widely celebrated by the Welsh. Today, the holiday is a celebration of both Wales and her patron saint. Children take part in recitations and songs, parades line the streets, the flag of Saint David is raised, and some girls don traditional Welsh attire.
The background of St. David’s Day
St. David’s Day has been celebrated since 1120, and it is a significant holiday for the Welsh. Who exactly is Saint David? St. David was the most prominent figure of the Welsh Age of Saints in the sixth century, the founder of numerous religious communities, and the only native-born patron saint of Britain and Ireland.
The majority of what we know about St. David was written by the scholar Rhygyfarch in the eleventh century. He informs us that Saint David was born in Pembrokeshire around the year 500 as the grandson of Ceredigion’s king, Ceredig ap Cunedda. He founded monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Brittany, and England, possibly including Glastonbury Abbey. In 550 A.D., after a persuasive speech at the Synod of Brefi, his fellow monks elected him primate of the region of Brefi. David presided over the Synod of Caerleon in 569 A.D.
According to legend, he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem before becoming an archbishop and founding a strict religious community in what is now St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, West Wales. It is believed that he subsisted solely on leeks and water, earning him a reputation for piety. His monks only prayed, ate, and wrote at night, and they manually ploughed fields without the assistance of animals. The monks could not even use the word “my” when referring to something as simple as a book due to his renunciation of personal property.
Many individuals asserted that St. David could perform miracles. While preaching at Llandewi Brefi, he once caused the ground to rise beneath his feet so that everyone could hear his sermon. This is one of his most renowned miracles. During the incident, it is said that a white dove landed on his shoulder, as he is depicted so frequently now. St. David is also believed to have resurrected a dead child and given sight to a blind man.
Saint David died on March 1, 589, St. David’s Day. His burial took place at St. David’s Cathedral. After raids by Vikings in the 10th and 11th centuries, his tomb received a new shrine in 1275. St. David’s bones were discovered and carbon-dated to the 12th century in the Holy Trinity Chapel of Saint David’s Cathedral. Since his canonization by Pope Callixtus in the 12th century, St. David’s Day has been observed. His shrine at St. David’s became a popular pilgrimage site, particularly during the Middle Ages.
In the pre-Reformation era, more than fifty churches were dedicated to him. In addition, the Eastern Orthodox church canonised him. St. David’s Day has been a celebration of the patron saint of Wales for centuries. Traditional celebrations include the wearing of daffodils and leeks, which are recognised symbols of Wales and Saint David, respectively, the consumption of traditional Welsh cuisine such as cawl and Welsh rarebit, and the wearing of traditional Welsh attire by women. A growing number of Welsh cities and towns, such as Cardiff, Swansea, and Aberystwyth, held parades throughout the day.
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5 ST. DAVID FACTS THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND
David founded a monastery in the vicinity of his birthplace around the year 560.
St. David is believed to have only consumed leeks and water.
When Pistol, in Henry V, insults the lowly leek on St. David’s Day, Fluellen demands that he consume the national symbol as a punishment: “If you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek.”
It was said that he could restore a blind man’s vision and revive a child by splashing the boy’s face with his tears.
After his military campaign in Wales in 1284, King Edward I of England removed the head and arm of St. David from the cathedral and exhibited them in London.
ST. DAVID’S DAY DATES