Stained glass window from St David's Cathedral

Saint David

Last updated: 26 February 2010

The early life of David

St David (or Dewi Sant in Welsh) was born on the South West coast of Wales, near the present day city of St Davids.

David is believed to have been born near the present day city that bears his name, in Pembrokeshire, South West Wales. The exact year of his birth is unknown, with estimates ranging from 462 to 515 AD.

Much of what we know about David comes from Rhygyfarch, the 11th century author who wrote the Life of Saint David. As it was written so long after the fact, its reliability is questionable. Additionally, the legend is woven with embellishments, which would have been undoubtedly inspiring to believers in centuries past.

We know that David was born into an aristocratic family. According to the legend, an angel foretold the birth of David to St Patrick 30 years before it happened.

Rhygyfarch wrote that he was the son of 'sanctus rex ceredigionis'. This is believed to be Sandde or Sant, prince of Powys and the son of King Ceredig, the founder of Ceredigion.

David was born to St Non at what is now Capel Non's, to the south of the city that bears his name. It is thought that Non was a victim of violation by Sandde after she resisted his initial advances. Non became a nun and was later canonised.

His mother is said to have given birth on a cliff top in the middle of a violent storm. The birthing process was said to have been so intense and fraught that her fingers left marks as she grasped a rock. As David was born a bolt of lightning from heaven is said to have struck the rock, splitting it in two.

Non named her son Dewidd, though local Dyfed pronunciation meant he was commonly called Dewi. David is an Anglicised variation of the name derived from the Latin Davidus.

Brought up by his mother in Henfeynyw near Aberaeron, David is said to have been baptised at nearby Porthclais by St Elvis of Munster. It is said that a blind monk, Movi, was cured after drops of water splashed into his eyes as he held David.

David was educated at a monastery, usually taken to be Whitland in Carmarthenshire, under St Paulinus of Wales. He is said to have cured his tutor of blindness by making the sign of the cross. Realising that David was blessed, Paulinus sent him off as a missionary to convert the pagan people of Britain.

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