St David's Bishop's Palace
St David's Bishop's Palace
Built between 1328-47. An arcaded parapet and corbels decorate a number of the ruined buildings. The great hall porch is the most highly decorated part of the ruins.
History
In the late 6th century St David established a monastery here on the southwestern tip of the Pembrokeshire peninsula. Over the ensuing centuries David's monastery was a centre for training missionary monks, who travelled throughout Wales, Ireland, and south west England. After David's death his shrone became a popular place of pilgrimage.

Unfortunately the exposed location of the monastery made it an easy target for raiding Norse seafarers. Over the 4 centuries followig David's death in 601AD the monastery was sacked by the Norse on at least 10 occasions. But the most serious threat to the monastery was not from the Norse, but from the Norman invaders who came by land following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The Normans gradually conquered southern Wales, and established their own bishops to replace the Welsh.

Bishop de Gower's wheel window
Bishop de Gower's wheel window
The bishops established a grand residence immediately beside the cathedral. But the Normans were no fools; they realised that St David's was vulnerable to attack by sea. They built a motte and bailey fortification on the site, but this was later abandoned in favour of an encircling stone wall around the cathedral and bishop's palace.

The Norman Palace
Around 1280 Bishop Thomas Bek began an ambitious program of building beside the cathedral. Though Bishop Bek greatly enhanced the early Norman palace, it was down to a later Bishop, Henry de Gower (1328-1347) to create the great palace we see today. Bishop de Gower added a grand Great Hall to tthe complex, notable for its arcaded parapet and eye-catching wheel window set in the east gable. His work included a chapel, and a private suite of apartments. It is interesting to see the difference between the east range - the bishop's private quarters - and the south range - very ostentatious, public rooms. Bishop de Gower also created the grand entrance gate that is one of the Palace's most striking features.

Roofless 14th century arcading
Roofless 14th century arcading
Though subsequent bishops altered the layout here and there, the palace we see today is essential 13th and 14th century work. After the Reformation the palace buildings were allowed to fall into disrepair. The gatehouse remains, and houses an exhibition on the history of the site, and long sections of the encircling wall still stand. Though most of the buildings inside the walls are roofless, they are still impressive,especially the great hall and Bishop Gower's arcading and wheel window. one of the most distinctive features is the wonderful chequerboard stonework.

The site is now in the care of CADW, and it is often used for open-air theatrical performances. What a setting! The combination of the cathedral and palace make St David's an absolutely wonderful historic treat.

The encircling wall
The encircling wall
Vaulted medieval storage chamber
Vaulted medieval storage chamber
The Bishop's Solar
The Bishop's Solar
Bishop's Bed Chamber, east wing
Bishop's Bed Chamber, east wing
Bishop's bed chamber from above
Bishop's bed chamber from above
The view from the parapets
The view from the parapets
The Bishop's Hall
The Bishop's Hall
The chapel tower
The chapel tower
Ruined doorway arches
Ruined chapel doorway