St. David, Patron Saint of Wales
St David's Day - March 1st
St. David is the patron saint of Wales, and he is the only one of the 4 saints of these islands who is from the nation which he represents. Dewi (anglicized to David) died on March 1st around 589AD, and this is why St David's Day is celebrated annually on this day. This is the day we wear the daffodil or leek, and fly Welsh flags with pride.
St. David was made the patron saint of Wales almost a thousand years ago during the climax of the Welsh wars against the armies of Edward the 1st of England.
Today, everybody who has Welsh connections celebrate them on March 1st. In Wales, many children wear the traditional Welsh Costume with black hat, and compete in the school Eisteddfod. Numerous concerts and 'Nosweithiau Llawen' (Merry Evenings) are held and many societies hold an evening of Cawl (broth) and invite a guest speaker.
The St. David's Day Parade is held annually in Cardiff on St David's Day. This is a Welsh occasion which is open to everybody. It is an opportunity for the people of Wales, of all ages, ethnic or social backgrounds to unite in a creative & dignified celebration of the culture & heritage of Wales.
Welsh Societies throughout the world also celebrate by holding dinners, parties & concerts. In the United States in 2006 St David's Day was officially recognised as the National Day for Welsh people, and on the March 1st the Empire State Building was lit up in the colours of the Welsh Flag.
Who was Dewi Sant?
Dewi was born towards the end of the 5th century, less that a hundred years after the last of the Roman Regions left Wales. Dewi's father was Sandde who was the heir to the Royal Family of Ceredigion. Dewi's mother was called Non, the daughter of Cynyr of Caio, a name which is remembered in many churches and sacred fountains in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Dewi was educated at Henfynyw in Ceredigion, where he studied the history, order and literature of the Church.
He founded a Celtic Monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn, on the western coast of Pembrokeshire, at the place where the Cathedral of St Davids now stands. It is possible that this was the site of a very early religious community. St Patrick is also connected to this site, he was born in South Wales and it is said that he spent some time at Glyn Rhosyn before sailing to Ireland from Porth Mawr.
Dewi's fame as a teacher spread throughout the Celtic world. He lived an ascetic life which was typical of all Celtic monks - indeed he was nicknamed 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (Dewi of the Water). There are a great many stories involving Dewi. Perhaps the best known is the sermon at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, when he addressed a large crowd the ground rose underneath his feet to enable all those present to hear him. It was said that a golden-beaked dove landed on his shoulder as a symbol of his sanctity.
The settlement at Glyn Rhosyn grew to be one of the most important places in the Christian world, and definitely the most important in Wales. Paths & roads throughout Wales led here, and in the middle ages two pilgrimages to Tyddewi counted the same as one pilgrimage to Rome. Thus Glyn Rhosyn became the focus of the Welsh Nation's spiritual aspirations and as Gerallt Gymro (Giraldus Cambrensis) wrote: "The Diocese of Tyddewi... became a symbol of Welsh Independence... and that is why Dewi himself was elevated to be the Patron Saint of Wales."
March 1st has been chronicled as the date of the death of Dewi Sant, but there is some doubt as to the year. 588 is a possibility. As the monks at Glyn Rhosyn prepared for his death, Dewi spoke to them thus: "Brothers and Sisters, be joyful and do the little things that you have seen and heard from me."