St David's

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St David's
Welsh: Tyddewi
St David's Cathedral
Grid reference: SM755255
Location: 51°52’55"N, 5°16’8"W
Population: 1,797  (2001)
Post town: Haverfordwest
Postcode: SA62
Dialling code: 01437
Local Government
Council: Pembrokeshire
Preseli Pembrokeshire

St David's is a city on the coast of Pembrokeshire, within the Dewisland Hundred. It is Britain's smallest city. St David's stands on the River Alyn on the St David's peninsula. The town is the de facto ecclesiastical capital of Wales and the final resting place of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales.

The ancient parish of St David's occupies the very end of the peninsula. However, the Close around the Cathedral was made an extra-parochial area in 1841 and a separate civil parish in 1866. These were merged back together in 1987, giving the city council its full name of The City Council of St Davids and the Cathedral Close.[1]

History and attractions

The area was originally known in the Welsh language as Mynyw and in Latin as Menevia. It was later renamed in honour of David. The city is built around St David's Cathedral, which in the Middle Ages was a popular place of pilgrimage. Next to it, the 14th-century Bishop's Palace is a ruin, maintained by Cadw and open to visitors.

St David's was once a marcher borough. In 1603 the antiquarian George Owen described it as one of five Pembrokeshire boroughs overseen by a portreeve.[2]

In addition to the cathedral, attractions in the city include the 13th century Tower Gate, the Celtic Old Cross and a number of art galleries.

St David's is also a popular base for walking and water sports. It has several hotels and a youth hostel, and a number of pubs.


The Flag of Saint David

Tradition states that Saint David was born to Saint Non at what is now St Non's, a ten-minute walk south of the city, in about AD 500. It is also said that he was baptised at Porthclais, now the city's port, and that he founded the city in around 550. In his day he was the leader of a fearsomely extreme monastic community: Gildas, a chronicler, monk and theologian who was a contemporary, vociferously accused David's followers of hypocrisy and worse. Nevertheless, the reputation which David left behind him was as a devout, pious and humble man, a reputation which grew with the popularity of St David's as a pilgrimage destination.

Pope Calixtus II decreed that two pilgrimages to St David's were equivalent to one to Rome. Because of this, a vast income was raised from visiting pilgrims in the Middle Ages.[3]

In the days of King Henry II, Gerald of Wales, the chronicler and churchman, argued that St David's had once been not just the seat of a bishop but of an archbishop with authority over Wales, independent of Canterbury. He took his appeal on the point to Rome but was rejected. Gerald was himself to be appointed as Bishop of St David's, and was acting bishop there for some time, but his refusal to swear allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury prevented his appointment. The tale of St David's as an ancient archbishop's seat has in popular imagination; the assertion was repeated unquestioned at the appointment of the first Archbishop of Wales in 1921.

The monastery was dissolved at the Reformation and pilgrimages ceased, but the cathedral remained, and does so today as the seat of the Diocese of St David's in the Church in Wales.

Around the town

St David's is the only city in the United Kingdom to lie entirely in a national park,[4] the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and it lies near the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Saint Non's Well overlooks the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and St Brides Bay. The Cambrian cliffs make this a popular spot for walkers and kayakers.

The St David's lifeboat, located at St Justinian, has saved numerous lives since the first lifeboat was located there in 1869; and a number of heroic lifeboatmen here have perished in the cause of saving others. Particular local marine perils are the treacherous reefs and formations off the coast together with the unpredictable Irish Sea conditions.

Local agriculture has declined in recent years, with the once important crop of Pembrokeshire first early new potatoes having largely died out due to pressure from the supermarkets.

St David's Eco City Group aims to make St David's the first carbon-neutral city in the world.[5]


St David's hosted the National Eisteddfod in 2002.


  1. St David's City Council
  2. Owen, George, The Description of Penbrokshire by George Owen of Henllys Lord of Kemes, Henry Owen (Ed), London, 1892
  3. St David's day, Pembrokeshire
  4. Wales history Retrieved on 16 February 2008
  5. Eco City St David's

Outside links

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