‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd’
Rhygyfarch, the late 11th century author of the saint’s life story,wrote that David was the son of sanctus rex ceredigionis, where Sanctus has been interpreted as a proper name and its owner honoured by Welsh Christians as Sandde, King of Ceredigion. However, this Latin phrase can equally well mean simply "holy king of Ceredigion". The king of Ceredigion around the time of David’s birth would have been Usai. According to Rhygyfarch, Sandde was his brother, so probably only a king of part of Ceredigion. They were sons of King Ceredig, founder of Ceredigion. The saint was conceived through violence and his mother, Non (possibly just ‘a nun’), the daughter of Lord Cynyr of Caer Goch (in Pembrokeshire), gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm. The site is marked by the Chapel of St Non.
David was educated at what is usually taken to be Whitland in Carmarthenshire under Saint Paulinus of Wales and was baptised by St. Ailbe. He became renowned as a teacher and preacher, founding monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Rhygyfarch stated that Glastonbury Abbey was amongst the many churches David founded.Around forty years later William of Malmesbury believing the Abbey was older than this, said that David visited Glastonbury intending only to rededicate 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,[ One of many references to Jesus visiting Glastonbury. ] So David instead commissioned an extension to be built to the abbey, east of the Old Church. One manuscript indicates that a sapphire altar was among the items King Henry VIII confiscated from the abbey at its dissolution a thousand years later. There are unverifiable indications that the sapphire may now be among the Crown Jewels.
He rose to a bishopric, and presided over two synods, as well as going on pilgrimages to Jerusalem (where he was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriarch) and Rome. St David’s Cathedral stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the ‘Glyn Rhosyn’ valley, in 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 beer. His symbol, also the symbol of Wales, is the leek.
The best-known miracle associated with Saint David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. 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. A white dove was seen settling on his shoulder then seen as a sign of God’s grace and blessing.
It is claimed that David lived for over 100 years, and he died on a Tuesday 1 March (now St David’s Day). He was buried at St David’s Cathedral where his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. David was officially recognised by Pope Callixtus II in the year 1120.
‘Do the little things in life’
Nb: Rhigyfarch (anglocised to Ricemarch) (1057–1099), eldest son of Sulien, whom he succeeded in 1088 as Bishop of St David’s, was the author of the standard Life of Saint David. The original text was written in Latin but was translated into Welsh later in the Middle Ages as Buchedd Dewi and did much to enhance the cult status of Saint David in Wales.