Saint Davids, Ancient See of
SAINT DAVIDS, ANCIENT SEE OF
The Ancient See of Saint Davids is one of four ancient dioceses of wales. The cathedral, in the present village of Saint Davids, is situated on the Alun, a small stream, two miles from the north shore of St. Bride's Bay and 16 miles from Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, Wales. It owes its isolated position to the fact that it preceded the diocese. Though legend says that St. Patrick founded a missionary college, Ty Gwyn, there, it is certain that some time after 530 david, the patron of Wales, who was trained by St. illtud, made the site of the present cathedral the site of his monastery. It was here that the historian gildas was a monk c. 589. The monastery grew into a diocesan church, or cathedral, with the principality of Dyfed (i.e., Pembrokeshire and the adjacent parts of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire) as its area. Despite its secluded location, Saint Davids became the chief seat of the British church in Wales. It retained this preeminance in south Wales all through the Middle Ages, and its bishops exercised metropolitan rights over that area until anselm of canterbury appointed a Norman monk, Bernard, as bishop in 1115 and made Saint Davids a suffragan see of Canterbury. giraldus cambrensis (d.1223) strove vainly to regain for the cathedral chapter the power to elect its own bishops without reference to the English king or primate. Bishop Thomas Bek (1280–93) refused to recognize in Wales the metropolitan rights of Abp. John Peckham of Canterbury but was the last to insist on the independence of the Welsh Church.
Saint Davids was a port for pilgrim traffic from Ireland and Wales to santiago de compostela in Spain. Two pilgrimages to the shrine of St. David were popularly thought to equal one to Rome.
The present cathedral, which is mainly transitional Norman, with an oak roof, was begun by Bp. Peter de Leia (1176–98). Bishop Henry Gower (1328–47) built the fine rood screen, as well as the magnificent episcopal palace (now ruined) across the Alun. Other bishops included Henry chichele. Under Bp. William barlow (1536–48) Saint Davids became a diocese of the Church of England. It is now one of the six dioceses of the Church of Wales.
Bibliography: Gt. Brit. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions in Wales and Monmouthshire, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire (London 1911–), v.7 County of Pembroke (1925). w. l. bevan, St. David's (London 1888). j. c. davies, ed., Episcopal Acts and Cognate Documents Relating to Welsh Dioceses, 1066–1272 (Cardiff 1946–). g. williams, The Welsh Church from Conquest to Reformation (Cardiff 1962). a. a. sampson, St. David's (St. David's, Wales 1974).