St David's Cathedral

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St Davids Cathedral (Welsh: Eglwys Gadeiriol Tyddewi) is situated in St Davids in the county of Pembrokeshire, on the most westerly point of Wales.

Contents

Early history

The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in AD589. Between AD645 and 1097, the community was attacked many times by raiders, including the Vikings, however it was of such note as both a religious and intellectual centre that King Alfred summoned help from the monastic community at St Davids in rebuilding the intellectual life of the Kingdom of Wessex. Many of the Bishops were murdered by raiders and hoarders, including Bishop Moregenau in AD999, and notably Bishop Abraham in 1080. The stone, which marked his grave, known as ‘The Abraham Stone’, is intricately carved with symbols of the early Celtic Church, and now is on permanent display within the Cathedral Exhibition at Porth-y-Tŵr.

In 1081, William the Conqueror visited St David's to pray, and thus recognised it as a holy and respected place. In 1089, the shrine of David was vandalised, and stripped of its precious metals. In 1090, the Welsh scholar Rhigyfarch wrote his Latin “Life of David”, highlighting David’s sanctity, thus beginning the almost cult-like status he achieved.

In 1115, with the area under Norman control, King Henry I of England appointed Bishop Bernard as Bishop of St Davids. He began to improve life within the community, and commenced construction of a new Cathedral. In 1123, Pope Calixtus II granted Bishop Bernard’s request to bestow a Papal “Privilege” upon St Davids, making it a centre of pilgrimage for the Western World, the Pope decreeing “Two pilgrimages to St Davids is equal to one to Rome, and three pilgrimages to one to Jerusalem!”. The new Cathedral was quickly constructed. Bishop Bernard consecrated the new Cathedral in 1131. Henry II of England’s visit in 1171 saw the following of David increase – and the need for a larger Cathedral.

The present Cathedral was begun in 1181, and completed not long after. Problems beset the new building and the community in its infancy; the collapse of the new tower in 1220, and earthquake damage in 1247/48.

Under Bishop Gower (1328–1347) the Cathedral was modified further, with the rood screen and the Bishop’s Palace, intended as permanent reminders of his episcopacy. (The Palace is now a picturesque ruin.)

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