St David's Cathedral
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The most sacred site in Wales
Here, on the top of the westernmost peninsula of mainland Wales, the Welsh saint Dewi, or David to give him his English name, established a monastery and served as Bishop of Menevia from the late 6th century until his death in 601AD. David's foundation became an important centre for training missionaries for work in Ireland. One of those missionaries was St Patrick, who set off for Ireland from nearby Whitesands Bay.
Over the next 4 centuries the monastery was sacked by Norse raiders at least 10 times. Life was never dull for the monks!
The Norman architects had trouble with the swampy ground, and even today you can see the nave pillars leaning at an alarming degree both outwards and at an angle. One of the most striking features of the interior is not the drunken pillars, but the lovely colour of the nave, built of beautiful rose-coloured sandstone. The style is firmly Romanesque, with rounded pillars and massed shapes. Even so, you can see the beginnings of the Gothic transition to pointed arches and wide spans. It seems possible that the same masons who worked at Wells Cathedral also worked here at St David's, for there are huge similarities in the styles of both buildings.
Behind the choir is the Lady Chapel and retrochoir. This area was heavily damaged in the Reformation and subsequently restored by Gilbert Scott in the Victorian period. One of the most interesting features of the east end is the Holy Trinity chapel, built by Bishop Vaughan from 1509-1522. This delightful chapel is a wonderful example of Perpendicular architecture, with marvellous fan tracery. In the east wall of the chapel is a small recess containing a casket. The casket is said to house the relics of St David and St Justinian. The bones were discovered during Scott's restoration work. Positive identification of the bones is impossible, but one of the skeletons discovered by Scott was that of a large man, and since David was said to be a very big man, it seemed reasonable to assume that here were the bones of St David himself.
Other notable tombs - and there are many - include that of Rhys ap Gruffydd (Lord Rhys), and Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) the 13th century monk whose accounts of his travels through Wales remain one of our best records of medieval Wales to this day.
St David's is a delight. The village - really, you can't think of it as a city - is wonderful, and the setting is superb. History seems to cling to every stone, and the combination of the cathedral and bishop's palace makes this an unforgettable place to visit. Don't miss St Non's holy well, just outside the village. Non, or Nona, was St David's mother, and there is a ruined chapel near an ancient stone well head in the middle of a field overlooking the rocky coastline.
About St David's Cathedral
Address: St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales, SA62 6RD
Attraction Type: Cathedral
Location: Off the A487. Signed parking beside the Bishop's Palace. Usually open daylight hours.
Website: St David's Cathedral
OS: SM751 253
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
St David's Bishop's Palace - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
St Non's Chapel - 0.7 miles (Historic Church)
Camrose Castle - 11.4 miles (Castle)
Rudbaxton, St Michael's Church - 13.2 miles (Historic Church)
Haverfordwest, St Mary's Church - 13.7 miles (Historic Church)
Haverfordwest Castle - 13.8 miles (Castle)
Haverfordwest Priory - 14.2 miles (Abbey)
Scolton Manor Museum & Country Park - 14.8 miles (Historic House)
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