Caldey Island, St David's Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Pre-Christian burial ground
HistoryA small Celtic chapel was established on a hilltop site here in the 6th century, but the site was in use as a Roman-British burial ground as much as 500 years prior to that. It is quite likely that people from the Pembrokeshire mainland were brought to Caldey Island for burial, following the Celtic belief that islands represented a link between earth and the afterlife. Thus the Celtic chapel was founded on a site already considered sacred.
After a Norman priory was established on Caldey around 1131, the monks rebuilt the Celtic chapel, incorporating stonework from the 6th century building in the nave of the new church. The medieval church also reused the foundations of the Celtic building.
The Benedictine monks from the new abbey inserted a series of striking stained glass windows in the medieval church. The windows were designed by one of the monks, named Dom Theodore Bailey.
The windows cover a wide variety of Biblical themes, with figures of St David of Wales standing beside King David in one pair of panels, and an unusual Fish Window based on the early Christian symbol of a fish. The most striking window of all is a circular Tree of Life design, with a threefold tree design. What is most striking about the windows is the vivid use of colour, which floods the interior of the church on sunny days.
The church is extremely simple in design. There is a west porch leading directly into the nave. Over the porch is a small circular window and at the top of the west gable is a bellcote for a single bell. Aside from the stained glass windows the church is worth visiting for its Norman west door.
Simple wooden crosses in the graveyard mark the graves of both islanders and monks. It is remarkable to think that the modern crosses stand on a site where Pre-Christian inhabitants were buried 2000 years ago.
Getting ThereCaldey Siald is reached by a regular boat service from Tenby harbour. There is a ticket kiosk at the harbour, and boats leave about every 20 minutes. Note that access is usullay limited to the Easter-October season.
Images are copyright as noted, republished with gratitude under a Creative Commmons license
About Caldey Island, St David's Church
Address: Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Reached by regular boat service from Tenby harbour
OS: SS142 966
Photo Credit: Humphrey Bolton, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Caldey Island Priory - 0.1 miles (Abbey)
Caldey Island, St Illtud's Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
Tudor Merchant's House - 2.4 miles (Historic House)
Tenby, St Mary's Church - 2.5 miles (Historic Church)
Tenby Castle - 2.7 miles (Castle)
Carswell Medieval House - 3.9 miles (Historic Building)
Manorbier, St James Church - 4.8 miles (Historic Church)
Manorbier Castle - 4.9 miles (Castle)
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