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St David's Day

  • Published
  • By Natalie Benge
  • 48th Fighter Wing community relations adviser
March 1 you will find the Welsh nation in a festive mood as they celebrate St. David's Day. But who was St. David and why is he so important to the Welsh?

St. David, or Dewi Saint as he is known in the Welsh language, is the patron saint of Wales. He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop who lived in the 6th century. During his life he was archbishop of Wales. He was one of the many early saints that helped spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain.

Some of the details surrounding his life are sketchy as the first manuscripts written about him were produced 500 years after his death.

Dewi was a very gentle and kind person who lived a frugal life. It is claimed he survived on a diet of bread and watercress, and despite this meagre diet, he was reported to be tall and strong.

Dewi is said to be of royal lineage. His father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, who was prince of Ceredigion, a region in Southwest Wales. His mother, Non, was the daughter of a local chieftain. Legend has it Non was also the niece of King Arthur.

Dewi was born near Capel Non, Non's Chapel, on the coast near the present city of St. David. Little is known about his early life, and he is thought to have been educated in a monastery called Hen Fynyw by the blind monk Paulinus. Dewi stayed at the monastery for years before embarking on his missionary travels with a group of followers.

Dewi travelled far on his missionary journeys throughout Wales, where he established several churches. He also travelled to the Southwest of England and across the channel to Brittany and Ireland.

Two of his friends, Saints Padarn and Teilo, often accompanied him on his journeys and once even completed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to meet the Patriarch.

Dewi is sometimes known in Welsh as "Dewi Ddyfrwr," David the Water Drinker, and, indeed, water was an important part of his life. He is said to have drank nothing else. Sometimes, as a self-imposed penance, he would stand up to his neck in a lake of cold water, reciting Scripture.

He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosyn, Rose Vale, on the banks of the small river Alun where the Cathedral City of St. David stands today. The Monastic brotherhood Dewi founded was strict. Besides prayer and celebrating masses, the brothers all had to work hard. They got up very early in the morning for prayers and afterwards worked to maintain life at the monastery, cultivating the land by pulling the plough by hand. Many crafts were followed. Bee keeping in particular was very popular as the monks had to keep themselves fed as well as the many pilgrims and travellers that visited for lodgings at the monastery. They also set about to feed and cloth the poor and needy in their neighbourhood.

It is claimed Dewi lived for over 100 years and died approximately 589.

Dewi's body was buried in the grounds of his own monastery, where the Cathedral of St. David now stands. After his death, his influence spread rapidly far and wide, firstly through Britain along what was left of the Roman roads, and by sea to Cornwall and Brittany.

U.S. links with Wales

Six facts linking Wales with the U.S: 

1. A Welsh-American invented the first automobile.
2. A Welshman co-founded the New York Times.
3. Welshmen may have settled America before Columbus.
4. America may have taken its name from a Welshman.
5. Welshmen founded three of the world's leading universities, including Yale and Brown University in Rhode Island.
6. Murray the Hump, who was Welsh, was Al Capone's Chief lieutenant, one of the most noterious U.S. criminals.

( Information courtesy of

British American medieval banquet

The British American Committee presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to dine at the Great Hall, Kings College, Cambridge on April 14. Tickets for the medieval banquet will be on sale soon.

For more information on living in Britain call Natalie Benge, Community Relations Adviser, at 226-3145, or email