St David: five facts 

St David was the greatest figure in the Welsh Age of Saints, founder of scores of religious communities, and the only native-born patron saint of the countries of Britain and Ireland. Did you know that? If not, here are five more facts about our spiritual commander-in-chief.


An illustration of Wales' patron saint, St David

St David illustration,

 by Jonathan Edwards

01 He was born in a storm 

St David was born in the year 500, the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, king of Ceredigion. According to legend, his mother St Non gave birth to him on a Pembrokeshire clifftop during a fierce storm. The spot is marked by the ruins of Non’s Chapel, and a nearby holy well is said to have healing powers. 

02 He was a fine preacher

St David became a renowned preacher, founding monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Brittany and southwest England – including, possibly, the abbey at Glastonbury. St David reputedly made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, from which he brought back a stone that now sits in an altar at St Davids Cathedral, built on the site of his original monastery.

03 He was a teetotal vegetarian

St David and his monks followed a simple, austere life. They ploughed the fields by hand, rather than using oxen, and refrained from eating meat or drinking beer. St David himself was reputed to have consumed only leeks and water – which is perhaps why the leek became a national symbol of Wales.

04 He performed miracles

The most famous miracle associated with St David took place when he was preaching to a large crowd in Llanddewi Brefi.  When people at the back complained that they could not hear him, the ground on which he stood rose up to form a hill. A white dove, sent by God, settled on his shoulder. 

05 His legacy lives on

St David died on 1 March – St David’s Day - in 589. He was buried at the site of St Davids Cathedral, where his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. His last words to his followers came from a sermon he gave on the previous Sunday: ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.’ The phrase ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd’ - ‘Do the little things in life’ - is still a well-known maxim in Wales.