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St David - The Patron Saint of Wales

Updated on January 18, 2017

St David's day, observed in Wales on March 1st, is a time for celebrating everything about the county and the culture. People wear dafodils, girls dress up in the national welsh costume and foods such as cawl, bara brith and leeks are eaten at celebrations all over the country. In Cardiff the countries capital, a festival takes place with parades, singing of traditional songs and hanging of St David's Flag.

A day of national pride, it encompasses everything that it means to be Welsh. So who was St David and how did he become the patron saint of Wales?

Stained glass window in Jesus College Chapel, Oxford, showing St David. Late 19th century

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Shrine of St David in St David's Cathedral, St Davids, Wales

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St David's Life

There is very little recorded information about the life of St David, historians debate the stories of his works. Most of what is known is based on traditional stories passed down through generations. One source that is considered more reliable than others is information recorded by an 11th century monk called Rhygyfarch, the son of the Bishop Sulien of St David's Cathedral. It is thought that Rhygyfarch gathered his information from written sources, not of which have survived.

There are several dates recorded for David's birth ranging from 454 - 544. His mother is often identified as Non the daughter of a Pembrokeshire chieftain and is described as very beautiful. His birth place reputedly to be spot overlooking St Brides Bay on the South-West Wales coast, now contains the ruins of a 18th century chapel named Non's Chapel. David is believed to have attended school at a Monastery in Cardigan and probably studied Latin, Mathematics, Astronomy and Music. He is thought to have studied for priesthood under the welsh scribe Saint Paulinus, became a travelling priest and founded several monasteries. Several legends are told about David during his life, one describing how he cleaned deadly water at Bath and turned it into a warm, healing pool. He founded 12 monasteries including St David's, where life was strict.

David is believed to have died on March 1st at over 100 years of age and his body was buried In the grounds of his monastery. In 1120 Pope Callactus II canonized David as a saint and March 1st was included in the Church calendar. He later became the patron saint of Wales. Pilgrimages to St David's became very popular.

Saint David's Cathedral

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St David's Day Celebrations

Celebration with flags, parades and music
Celebration with flags, parades and music | Source

How do People Celebrate?

Many schools in Wales celebrate by holding eisteddfods - competitions including singing, poetry reading and dancing. All over the country children dress up in traditional costume, wear leeks and dafodills, the national emblems and special events are held across the country.

In Cardiff the National St David’s Day Parade is an annual event. A colorful parade of performers, dancers, flags and music culminates in a performance of the national anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.Celebrations go on into the evening at the Castle grounds and various other locations in the town center. Similar celebrations occur in towns such as Aberystwyth, Wrexham and Llandudno and many castles hold events, often free to the public.

St David's Day Parade in Cardiff

Interesting Facts About St David

Fact
When David died he told his devoted followers to: "Be cheerful and keep your faith and belief, and do the little things that you have heard and seen through me."
Happy St David's day in Welsh is Dydd Gwŷl Dewi (Sant) hapus.
David is thought to have been part of the royal family.
David is said to have only drunk water all his life
One story says he brought a youth back from the dead
When a great crowd could not see David a hill rose under him so all could see.
He was a vegetarian who ate only bread, herbs and vegetables
The brothers at his monasteries worked hard doing everything for themselves.

Flag of St David

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The flag of St David is often displayed in Wales especially on March 1st. The colors of the flag, black and gold have a long association with St David. St David's University College in Lampeter adopted these colours as the college colors in 1888. The flag represented the 38th Welsh Division in the WW2.


So if you do find yourself in Wales around March 1st be sure to check out some of the events happening locally. Whether you attend a parade, taste some local food or have the opportunity to listen to a Welsh choir you are sure to have a wonderful experience.

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