. . . a Holy Man in early Ceredigion
St. David (Dewi Sant), the patron saint of Wales, was a Welsh holy man who lived around 600 AD.
The world into which he was born was a Christian one, which looked back to a very recent Roman past. Roman rule had retreated from Britain around 406 AD and the Anglo-Saxons, who were not Christian, had come to occupy south-eastern Britain from around 440 AD onward. Wales divided into a number of independent Celtic kingdoms.
Amongst these were Ceredigion (now a county) and Dyfed (modern Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire). The story of St. David straddles these two kingdoms.
The legend of David's birth is that he was the son of King Sanctus (Sant) of Ceredigion and a holy virgin of Dyfed named Nonnita (Non), whom Sanctus violated during a visit to her native kingdom. Whether or not this story of David's origins is anything more than apocryphal, very early churches associated with David are found in both these early kingdoms.
St. David's Cathedral
The ancient church site of MENEVIA, in Dyfed, now the city of St. David's with its magnificent
cathedral, was probably the site of David's principal monastery.
The most famous story concerning St. David, during which the ground is said to have risen under his feet as he preached, is set in Ceredigion at the historic church of LLANDDEWII BREFI.
Henfynyw, the name of which may be derived from old hen) 'Menevia' (rendered mynyw in Welsh) may even have claims to being David's earlier monastery.
At both Henfynyw and Llanddewi Brefi inscribed stones confirm that these were early church sites that were occupied around the time of the saint.
The earliest history of David, and of these early church sites, was only written some
five centuries after it occurred, when Rhygyfarch ap Sulien (1056 - 1099) wrote his
elegant Life of the saint.
Yet David, Britain's only native-born patron saint, appears very much an historic figure. Rhygyfarch wrote only a few miles away, at LLANBADARN FAWR near Aberystwyth and was the son of a Bishop of St. David's.
His historical detail is undoubtedly informed by local knowledge and by literary sources from the church at St. David's.