Biography of the Patron Saint
Celtic Mysticism and Celtic Christianity have always been of
great interest to Welsh Theosophists. In the 1920s a Lodge was named the Dewi Sant Lodge of the
Theosophical Society in
Saint David (c. 512–587) (known in Welsh as Dewi
Sant) was a church official, later regarded as a
saint and as the patron saint of
He became renowned as a teacher and preacher, founding monastic
be united as
to a bishopric, and presided over two synods, as well as going on pilgrimages to
David's Cathedral now stands on the site of the monastery he founded in a remote and inhospitable part of Pembrokeshire.
The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks had to pull the plough
themselves without draught animals; to drink only water; to eat only bread with
salt and herbs; and to spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No
personal possessions were allowed: to say "my book" was an offence. He lived a simple life and practiced asceticism, teaching his followers to refrain from
eating meat or
drinking alcohol. His symbol, also the symbol of
The best-known miracle associated with St David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd. When those at the back
complained that they could not see or hear him, the ground on which he stood is
reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view.
The village which is said to stand on the spot today is known as Llanddewi
Brefi. A more mundane version of this story is that he simply recommended that
the synod participants move to the hilltop.
The document that contains much of the traditional tales about
David is Buchedd Dewi, a
hagiography written by Rhygyfarch in the 11th/12th
century. One of Rhygyfarch's aims was that his
document could establish some independence for the Welsh church, which was
risking losing its independence following the Norman invasion of
William of Malmesbury recorded that David
dedicate the Abbey, as well as to donate a travelling altar including a great
sapphire. He had a
vision of Jesus, who said that "the church had been dedicated long ago by Himself in honour of His Mother, and it was not seemly that
it should be re-dedicated by human hands". So David instead commissioned
an extension to be built to the abbey, east of the
It is claimed that Dewi lived for over 100 years, and it is generally accepted
that he died in 589. His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the
previous Sunday. Rhigyfarch transcribes these as 'Be joyful, and keep your faith
and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I
will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.' 'Do the little things'
('Gwnewch y pethau bychain') is today a very well-known phrase in Welsh, and has proved an inspiration to many. On a Tuesday, the first of March, in the year
589, the monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received
St David's Day is March 1.
Unlike many contemporary "saints" recognised by the Welsh, David was canonised, by Pope Callixtus II in 1120.
David's life and teachings have inspired a choral work by Welsh composer Karl
Jenkins, Dewi Sant. It is a seven-movement work that is best known for the
classical crossover series Adiemus, which intersperses movements reflecting the
themes of David's last sermon with those drawing from three Psalms.
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