Author Topic: St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus  (Read 3797 times)

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Offline Brigid of Kildare

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St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus
« on: March 01, 2003, 07:42:02 AM »
Today March 1 is the feast of Saint David of Wales for those not on the Julian Calendar. Here is an account of his life from yahoo's celt-saints list:

St. David (Dewi Sant) of Wales, Bishop
5th or 6th century. There is no certainty about the date though we know that St. David was a real personage, son of King Sant, a prince of Cardigan in far western Wales. All the information we have about him is based on the 11th century biography written by Rhygyfarch, the son of Bishop Sulien of St. David's. Rhygyfarch's main purpose was to uphold the claim of the Welsh bishopric to be independent of Canterbury, so little reliance can be placed on the document.

David, who may have been born at Henfynw in Cardigan, lived during the golden age of Celtic Christianity when saints were plentiful, many of them of noble rank--kings, princes, and chieftain--who lived the monastic life, built oratories and churches, and preached the Gospel.

Saint Cadoc founded the great monastery of Llancarfan. Saint Illtyd turned from the life of a soldier to that of a mystic and established the abbey of Llantwit, where tradition links his name to that of Sir Galahad. But greatest among them was David, cousin of Cadoc and pupil of Illtyd, who was educated in the White House of Carmarathen and who founded the monastery of Menevia in the place that now bears his name.

According to his biography, David became a priest, studied under Saint Paulinus, the disciple of Saint Germanus of Auxerre, on an unidentified island for several years. He then engaged in missionary activities, founded 12 monasteries from Croyland to Pembrokeshire, the last of which, at Mynyw (Menevia) in southwestern Wales, was known for the extreme asceticism of its rule, which was based on that of the Egyptian monks.

Here in this lovely and lonely outpost he gathered his followers. The Rule was strict, with but one daily meal, frequent fasts, and hours of unbroken silence. Their days were filled with hard manual labour and no plough was permitted in the work of the fields. "Every man his own ox," said St. David. Nor did David exempt himself from the same rigorous discipline: he drank nothing but water and so came to be known as David the Waterman; and long after vespers, when the last of his monks had retired to bed, he prayed on alone through the night.

We are told that he was of a loveable and happy disposition, and an attractive and persuasive preacher. It was perhaps his mother, the saintly Non, who had nurtured him carefully in the Christian faith, that he owed so many of his own fine qualities. It was not surprising, therefore, that when the time came for the appointment of a new archbishop of Wales the choice fell upon him.

At Brevi, in Cardiganshire, a great synod had been convened about 550, attended by a thousand members, but David, who kept aloof from temporal concerns, remained in his retreat at Menevia. The synod, however,
insisted on sending for him. So great was the crowd and so intense the excitement that the voice of the aged and retiring archbishop Saint Dubricius could hardly be heard when he named David as his successor.
David, who at first refused, came forward reluctantly, but when he spoke his voice was like a silver trumpet, and all could hear and were deeply moved; and in that hour of his succession a white dove was seen to settle upon his shoulders as if it were a sign of God's grace and blessing.

It is said that David was consecrated archbishop by the patriarch of Jerusalem and given an altar stone by him while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But he loved Menevia and could not bring himself to leave it for Caerleon, the seat of the archbishopric, which he transferred to his own monastery by the wild headlands of the western sea, and which to this day is known by his name and remains a place of pilgrimage.

Again, although evidence is unreliable, David convened a council, called the Synod of Victory, because it marked the final demise of Pelagianism, ratified the edicts of Brevi, and drew up regulations for the British Church.

Giraldus tells us that in his time congregations and monasteries grew all over Wales and "to these Father David, as if placed upon a lofty eminence was a mirror and pattern of life".

"He opened," we are told, "many fountains in dry places, and across the centuries his words spoken in the hour of death still reach us:
"Brothers and sisters, be joyful and keep your faith and do ther little things."

On the last Sunday before his death after he had received the Holy Sacrament he gave the people his blessing bidding them to be joyful and to keep the Faith for they would see him no more in this world. He died on the Tuesday 1st March and the monks cried out with anguish "Who will help us? Who will pray for us? Who will be a father to us as David was?"

St.David was buried in his cathedral and his tomb became, and still is, a great place of pilgrimage. even the Norman Kings William the Conqueror and Henry II visiting it to pay homage. Bishop Richard Carew rebuilt the Cathedral Church largely from offerings at the Shrine and the relics were translated to their present position to the north side of the presbytery in 1275.

His birth and death dates are uncertain, ranging from c. 454 to 520 for the former and from 560 to 601 for the latter (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Gill, Wade- Evans).

In art, St. David is a Celtic bishop with long hair and a beard, and a dove perched on his shoulder. He may be shown preaching on a hill, or holding his cathedral. He is the patron saint of Wales and especially venerated in Pembrokeshire (Roeder). No one seems to have a satisfactory explanation regarding the association of leeks with St. David's Day as in Shakespeare's Henry V, IV, 1 (Attwater).

But..... The leek, and later the daffodil was chosen as the Welsh emblem because of the colour of the leaves, green above ground and white below, corresponding to the colours of the national standard with its red dragon. It is believed that St. David advised King Cadwallader to distinguish his warriors from the heathen Saxon in battle with the leek and it would have had the added advantage of making them recognisable in the dark by the aroma of their insignia!

St. David's Cathedral lies in a hollow in the rugged Goewer peninsular called in Welsh Mynyw, transliterated into Latin as Menevia, the most western tip of Britain. The place is pure enchantment, the uneven floor of the great church seems to move with spiritual power and the little oaken casket containing the relics of David and Justinian, his confessor and "soul friend", would move the most sceptical. Every pilgrim should walk the mile or so up the narrow country lane to St. Non's Well and chapel, overlooking the rocky coastline with its small islands, for this is reputed to be the birthplace of Dewi Sant or St. David.

Troparion (Tone 1)
Having worked miracles in thy youth, founded monasteries and converted the pagans who had sought to destroy thee, O Father David, Christ our God blessed thee to receive the episcopate at the place of His Resurrection. Intercede for us, that our lives may be blessed and our souls may be saved.

Kontakion (Tone 6)

The living waters of godly discipline encompassed thee and the saving waters of faith flowed through thy teaching, O Hierarch and Waterman David. Symbolising the baptism of Wales in thy life, thou art worthy of all praise, wherefore we keep festival in thy honour, glorifying thine eternal memory.

Icons of Saint David of Wales:

St. David's Cathedral and Shrine:
Bríd Naomhtha, Mhuire na nGaeil, Guí Orainn

Offline David

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Re:St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2003, 08:28:18 AM »

Thank you for that wonderful post!  BTW, are you having trouble with setting up the new avatar?  Send me a PM if so.
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Offline Brigid of Kildare

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Re:St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2003, 10:37:11 AM »

Glad you enjoyed the post on St David of Wales. As you can see I have got the avatar working, I have to shamefacedly confess to having failed to tick the appropriate box on my profile  :-[

As thanks for the use of this wonderful icon I enclose a poem from the Welsh poet David Gwenallt Jones:

Saint David (Dewi Sant)

There is no border between two worlds in the Church;
The Church militant on earth is the same
As the victorious Church in Heaven.
And the saints will be in the two-one Church.
They will come to worship with us, a little congregation,
The saints, our oldest ancestors,
Who built Wales on the foundation of
The Cradle, the cross and the Empty Grave;
And they will go out as before to wander through their old familiar places
And bring the Gospel to Wales.
I saw David strolling from county to county like God's gypsy
With the Gospel and the Altar in his caravan;
And coming to us to the Colleges and schools
To show the purpose of learning.
He went down to the bottom of the pit with the miners
And threw the light of his wise lamp on the coal face;
On the platform of the steel works he put on the goggles and the little blue shirt
And showed the Christian being purified like the metal in the furnace;
And led the industrial proleteriat to his unrespectable Church
He carried his Church everywhere
As a body, which was life and brain and will
That did little and great things.
He brought the Church to our homes,
Put the Holy Vessels on the kitchen table,
And got bread from the pantry and bad wine from the cellar,
And stood behind the table like a tramp
Lest he should hide the wonder of the Sacrifice from us.
And after Communion we chatted by the fireside,
And he spoke to us about God's natural Order,
The person, the family, the nation and the society of nations,
And the Cross keeping us from turning one of them into a god.
He said that God shaped our nation
For His own purpose,
And her death would impair that Order.
Anger furrowed his forehead
As he lashed us for licking the arse of the English Leviathan,
And letting ourselves, in his Christian country,
Be turned into Pavlov's dogs.
We asked him for his forgiveness, his strength and his ardour
And, before he left us, told him
To give the Lord Jesus Christ our poor congratulations,
And ask Him if we could come to Him
To praise Him forever in Heaven,
When that longed for moment comes
And we have to say "Goodnight" to the world.

(Eples, 1951)
Bríd Naomhtha, Mhuire na nGaeil, Guí Orainn

Offline the slave

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Re:St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2003, 11:01:31 AM »
What a lovely avatar it is too , Brigid. :D

Now please would you explain why the cross that St Brigid is holding is like that - I know there's a reason for it - but I have never found out why   ???

[with apologies for being off topic]
"Never let anyone try to tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was fully Orthodox for a thousand years; and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies."
- St. John Maximovitch

Offline Brigid of Kildare

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Re:St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2003, 12:56:08 PM »
What a lovely avatar it is too , Brigid. :D

Now please would you explain why the cross that St Brigid is holding is like that - I know there's a reason for it - but I have never found out why   ???

[with apologies for being off topic]

No need to apolgize for talking about St Brigid to me :D

Your question is a good one. There are really two Brigids, one is a Celtic goddess and the other a Christian saint, and the interaction between the pair is fascinating. The legend associated with St Brigid's cross is that Saint Brigid was present at the deathbed of an Irish pagan chieftain and fashioned the cross from the rushes strewn about the floor as a quick way of illustrating the sign of redemption. The swastika-like shape is something which is found in Celtic art, and the crosses are still woven from rushes in many parts of Ireland for her feast day on 1/14 February. This date is also the pagan Celtic spring festival of Imbolc, so there's the interaction between the pagan and the Christian Brigids again. If you would like to see how to make one there is a lovely site from an Irish school at

I will leave you with a prayer,


St Brigid's Blessing

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell, bless every fireside, every wall and floor.
Bless every heart that beats beneath it's roof, and every tongue and mind forever more.
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy, and every foot that walks its portals through.
This is my wish today, my constant prayer, may Brigid bless the house that shelters you.
Bríd Naomhtha, Mhuire na nGaeil, Guí Orainn

Offline Brigid of Kildare

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Re:St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2003, 07:32:34 AM »
I thought for good measure that I would also post the life of St Non, mother of St David as well:

Celtic and Old English Saints          3 March

Saint Nonna

A Celebration of Tenacity
Very little is known about the late-fifth-century Saint Nonna (or Nonnita in Welsh, Non) other than the fact that she was the mother of Saint David, Patron of Wales. She herself, however, is more closely connected with Altarnon in Cornwall, where a church and a well are dedicated to her. Her tomb lies in Dirinon in Brittany, where she died.

Her strong connections in the three British Celtic lands with dedications in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany suggest that she was an important saint in her own right and not simply the mother of a major patron. Evidently, she was a nun at least in the latter part of her life.   The later legends show confusion on this last point, since to those writing them down in the medieval church celibacy was very much a factor, and the birth of Saint David had to be accommodated somehow.

Some legends claim that she was a nun ravished by someone named Sant; but this explanation is too formulaic for mothers of major figures. Such stories attempt rather clumsily to show that the mother had not willingly conceived and was therefore pure, as was the Virgin Mary. The name Sant 'Saint' likewise arouses suspicions.

The alternative story that she was the daughter of a powerful chieftain of the area around what is now St David's in Dyfed seems far more likely, given her importance in a wide area. At that time, the chief
saints were often from the ruling families of Britain, and her membership in the "nobility" would certainly afford her movement  between Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany.

At this point, a pervasive and tenacious legend enters the picture one that is so persistent that it may well contain some factual basis. When she was pregnant with Saint David, for some reason she was out alone along the coast of Dyfed, on the peninsula now called St David's Head on the very edge of Wales. As some legends would have it, she was exiled from her home, perhaps because she was with child against the wishes of her family.

On the eve of the first of March, a storm came crashing in from the sea. Such storms in that area are ferocious and terrifying, with waves breaking violently on the cliffs and coursing over them. Pelted by rain and whipped by fierce winds, she clung to a rock throughout the night.
In the morning, the sun rose and her child was born. There is still a rock standing there with indentations claimed to have been made by Nonna's hands. A short distance away is St David's Cathedral.

The Symbol

The symbol of Saint Nonna is a rock, with two indentations on the sides, representing the grasp the saint maintained on that rock. The rock itself is the Rock of Christ the unswerving faith in his Word to which
Saint Peter (whose name means 'the rock') and Saint Nonna clung so tenaciously. Within the rock is the Trinity knot, the never-ending connectedness of God the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sustainer all of one essence. Upon this rock is the cross of the Celtic Church, being also of one essence with the rock itself. Thus it is that our tenacious grasp on the rock of faith is inspired by the Trinity and is both what makes up Christ's Holy Church and what holds it up as well.


Troparion of St Non tone 3
Having given birth to the patron of the Welsh, most pious Non,/ thou didst rejoice to serve Christ God in thine appointed station./
Wherefore, O Saint, intercede for us that we may be saved/ from the worldly spirit of dissatisfaction/ and through God's mercy be found worthy of eternal salvation.

Kontakion of St Non tone 7
With joy thou didst instruct thy son/ in our saving faith, O holy Non,/ teaching him in all things to obey the commands of Christ's Gospel/ by becoming a missionary and messenger of salvation./ All praise and honour is thy due,/ therefore we sing: Alleluia.

St. Non's chapel, Wales

Photographs of St. Non's well, nearby St. David's cathedral, Wales
Bríd Naomhtha, Mhuire na nGaeil, Guí Orainn

Offline Ebor

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Re:St David/Dewi Sant/Aquaticus
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2003, 11:22:20 AM »
Thank you for posting the links at the bottom of the first entry.  I took the "tour" of the cathedral and enjoyed it very much.  

"I wish they would remember that the charge to Peter was "Feed my sheep", not "Try experiments on my rats", or even "Teach my performing dogs new tricks". - C. S. Lewis

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