Text: Life of St David

St. David (aka Dewi, c.500-589) is the national patron saint of Wales. His feast day is 1 March. This biography of him was written in Latin c.1090 by Rhygyfarch.

The following extract from the translation was adapted by Michael Newton from the edition of Wade-Evans, The Life of Saint David.

§ 1. Our Lord, although he loved and foreknew all his own before the creation of the world, has foretold some by many clear revelations. Thus that saint, whom baptism calls David but the people Dewi, became famous, not only because, thirty years before he was born, he was foretold by truth-telling oracles of angels, first to his father, then to Saint Patrick, but also because he was enriched with donations of mystical gifts.

§ 2. For on a certain occasion, his father, whose name (and merits) was “Sant,” who relied on his royal power over the people of Ceredigion, which subsequently he laid aside to procure a heavenly kingdom, was warned in dreams by an angelic voice, which he heard, “Tomorrow on waking thou shalt go hunting, and having killed a stag near a river, thou shalt find there three gifts by the river Teivi, namely, the stag which you pursue, a fish, and a swarm of bees settled in a tree in the place which is called Llyn Henllan. Of these three, therefore, reserve a honeycomb, a part of the fish, and of the stag, which send to be kept for a son, who shall be born to thee, to the Monastery of Maucannus, which till now is called the Monastery of the Deposit.” These gifts foretell his life, for the honeycomb proclaims his wisdom, for as honey in wax, so he held a spiritual mind in a temporal body. And the fish declares his aquatic life, for as a fish lives in water, so he, rejecting wine and beer and everything that can intoxicate, led a blessed life in God on bread and water only, wherefore David is also named “of the Aquatic Life.” The stag signifies his power over the Old Serpent, for as a stag, having deprived serpents of their food, seeks a fountain of water and is refreshed as in youth with the strength received, so he, borne on high as on stags’ feet, deprived the Old Serpent of the human race of his power of hurting him and fled to the fountain of life with constant Sowings of tears, and, being renewed from day to day, so brought it to pass that in the name of the Holy Trinity, by the frugality of moderate repasts, he began to have saving knowledge [and] the power of governing demons.

§ 3. Then Patrick, polished with Roman learning and teeming with excellences, having been made a bishop, sought the people from whom he had been separated while living in exile [in Ireland], among whom he might by unwearied toil replenish the lamp of fruitful endeavour by a double portion of the oil of charity, unwilling to place it under a bushel, but on a pedestal that it might shine on all to the glory of the universal Father. He came to the country of the people of Ceredigion, wherein he sojourned a little while. He entered Dyfed and wandering about there eventually arrived at the place which was named Vallis Rosina; and seeing that the place was pleasant, he vowed to serve God faithfully there.
But when he was revolving these things in his mind, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, saying “God has not intended this place for you, but for a son who is not yet born, nor will he be born until thirty years are past.”

On hearing these words Saint Patrick grieved and was confused, and in anger he exclaimed, “Why has the Lord despised his servant who has served him from his infancy with fear and love? Why has he chosen another not yet born into this light nor will be born for thirty years?”

And he prepared to leave and to abandon his Lord, Jesus Christ, saying, “Inasmuch as my labour is reduced to nothing in the sight of my Lord, and one is preferred before me, who is not yet born, I will go and submit no longer to such toil.” But the Lord loved Patrick greatly, and sent to him his angel to coax him with kindly words, saying to him, “Rejoice, Patrick, for the Lord has sent me to you that I may show you the whole of the island of Ireland from the seat which is in Vallis Rosina” which now is named “the Seat of Patrick.”
And the angel says to him, “Rejoice, Patrick, for you shall be the apostle of the whole of that island which you can see, and thou shalt suffer many things in it for the name of the Lord thy God, but the Lord will be with thee in all things which thou shalt do, for as yet it has not received the word of life; and there you ought to do good; there the Lord has prepared a seat for thee; there thou shalt shine in signs and miracles, and thou shalt subdue the whole people to God. Let this be to thee for a sign. I will show thee the whole island. Let the mountains be bent ; the sea shall be made smooth ; the eye bearing forth across all things, looking out from [this] place, shall behold the promise.”

At these words he raised his eyes from the place in which he was standing, which now is called “the Seat of Patrick,” and saw the whole island.

At length the mind of Patrick was satisfied and he cheerfully left the sacred spot for holy David; and preparing a ship in Porth Mawr, he raised from the dead a certain old man, Criumther by name, who for twelve years had lain buried by that shore; and Patrick sailed for Ireland, taking with him the man he had just raised from the dead, who afterwards was made a bishop.

§ 8. The place where holy David was educated is called “Vetus Rubus” [W Hen Vynyw]; and he grew up full of grace, and lovely to behold. And there it was that holy David learned the alphabet, the psalms, the lessons for the whole year, the masses, and the liturgy of feasts; and there his fellow disciples saw a pigeon [dove?] with a gold beak playing at his lips, and teaching him, and singing hymns of God.

§ 13. He founded twelve monasteries to the praise of God: first, arriving at Glastonbury, he built a church; then he came to Bath, and there blessed deadly water so that it became wholesome and endowed it with perpetual heat, rendering it fit for people to bathe; afterwards he came to Croyland, and Repton; then to Colva, and Glascwm, and he had with him a two-headed altar; after that he founded the monastery of Leominster (in England); afterwards in the region of Gwent, in a place which is called Raglan, he built a church; then he founded a monastery in a place which is called Llan Gyvelach, in the region of Gower, in which, afterwards, he received the altar, which was sent to him. Also he cured Peibio, the blind king of Erging, by restoring light to his eyes. Furthermore, two saints, Boducat and Maitrun, in the province of Cedweli, submitted to him.

§ 36. When [his disciple] Saint Áedán had been fully instructed, being potent in virtues and thoroughly purified from vices, he made for Ireland. And having constructed a monastery there, which in the Gaelic language is called Guernin [modern “Ferns”], he led a most holy life.

§ 53. Then, blessed and praised by all people, he was made archbishop with the consent of all the bishops, kings, princes, nobles, and all grades of all of the Britons, and his monastery too is declared the metropolis of the whole country, so that whoever ruled it should be accounted archbishop.

§ 68. Here begins the genealogy of Saint David, archbishop of all Britain by the grace and predestination of God. David was the son of Sant, Sant son of Cheretic, Cheretic son of Cuneda, Cuneda son of Etern, Etern son of Patern, Patern son of Peisrud, Peisrud son of Doeil, Doeil son of Gurdeil, Gurdeil son of Dumn, Dumn son of Guordumn, Guordumn son of Amguoil, Amguoil son of Amguerit, Amguerit son of Omid, Omid son of Perum, Perum son of Dobun, Dobun son of Iouguen, Iouguen son of Abalach, Abalach son of Eugen, Eugen son of Eudolen, Eudolen son of Eugen, Eugen son of Mary’s sister.

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