St Davids Cathedral

St Davids, United Kingdom

The monastic community in St Davids was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in 589. 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. The new cathedral was quickly constructed and Bishop Bernard consecrated it 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 Bishops Palace intended as permanent reminders of his episcopacy. In 1365, Bishop Adam Houghton and John of Gaunt began to build St Mary's College and a chantry. He later added the cloister, which connects it to the cathedral.

The episcopacy of Edward Vaughan (1509–1522) saw the building of the Holy Trinity chapel. This period also saw great developments for the nave, whose roof and Irish oak ceiling were constructed between 1530 and 1540. Bishop Barlow, unlike his predecessor as bishop, wished to suppress the following of David, and stripped St David's shrine of its jewels and confiscated the relics of St David and St Justinian in order to counteract 'superstition' in 1538. In 1540, the body of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and father of Henry VII, was brought to be entombed in front of the high altar from the dissolved Greyfriars' Priory in Carmarthen.

The establishment of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell greatly affected many cathedrals and churches, and was particularly felt in St Davids. The cathedral was all but destroyed by Cromwell’s forces and the lead was stripped from the Bishops Palace roof.

Present cathedral

The Welsh architect John Nash was commissioned to restore the west front in 1793 to repair the damage done two hundred years previously. Within a century the Nash west front had become unstable and the whole building was restored by George Gilbert Scott between 1862 and 1870. The lady chapel was restored by public subscription in 1901 and the eastern chapels were restored through a legacy of the Countess of Maidstone, granddaughter of Bishop John Jenkinson, between 1901 and 1910.

The 1960s saw the restoration of St Mary’s College as the cathedral hall, for the use of the cathedral parish and for use as an area for art exhibitions and poetry readings. It was dedicated by Archbishop Edwin Morris in 1966 and the inaugural event was a poetry reading by the renowned poet R. S. Thomas, who served as a vicar in the Bangor diocese.

St Davids Cathedral Exhibition

The Gatehouse contains an exhibition designed to introduce the pilgrim/visitor to the history and life of the Cathedral today including its daily worship.There is information about St David himself, about mediaeval pilgrimage to St Davids (two trips to St Davids was equal to one to Rome itself), and the importance of St Davids. In mediaeval times St Davids occupied a strategic position at the junction of major land and sea routes between England, Wales and Ireland and therefore the monarch took an interest in St Davids, William the Conqueror visiting in 1081.


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Founded: 1131-1181
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom


4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Delith Evans (4 months ago)
Well worth a visit,watch the steps as you walk down to the cathedral. quaint little shops. Absolutely gorgeous. ?
Raif & Vy (5 months ago)
St. David's Cathedral has been in operation since the sixth-century. St Davids Cathedral has been a site of pilgrimage & worship for more than 800 years. Every beautiful building with all the architecture and history inside the church. The cathedral is built up of churches inside the church with different rooms
James Doyle (7 months ago)
Certainly! St. David's Cathedral, a true gem steeped in Welsh history, captivated us during our visit at the end of 2023. Its charming aura immediately embraced us as we stepped onto its historic grounds. The meticulous preservation of this ancient building left us in awe, a testament to the dedication of those safeguarding its rich heritage. The architectural marvels within the cathedral, adorned with intricate details, transported us through time, allowing a glimpse into the past. The reverence in every corner resonated with the essence of Welsh culture, creating an immersive experience that transcends generations. What truly struck us was the harmonious blend of spirituality and history, seamlessly intertwined within the cathedral's walls. As we explored, each step unfolded a narrative that echoed the resilience and cultural significance of St. David's Cathedral. The ethereal atmosphere and the sense of continuity between the past and present made our visit not just a sightseeing endeavor but a journey into the heart of Welsh identity. Moreover, the meticulous upkeep and preservation efforts were evident, ensuring that this historical landmark retained its grandeur. The seamless integration of modern conservation techniques with the ancient architecture showcased a commitment to preserving this cultural treasure for future generations. In conclusion, our visit to St. David's Cathedral was an enchanting experience that left an indelible mark on our memories. It's not merely a building; it's a living testament to the enduring spirit of Welsh history, expertly preserved and gracefully shared with all who have the privilege of stepping into its hallowed halls.
Flora S (9 months ago)
A phenomenally beautiful building. So much history to take in as well as the majesty of the building itself. We spent about an hour looking around the inside and also had a nice walk around the cathedral grounds too. Everyone we spoke to was very friendly and helpful. We visited in mid October (not half term) and it was busy without being crowded.
Michael Lees (9 months ago)
Wow, I was not expecting to find such a fabulous cathedral in such a remote and relatively small town. It's packed with interesting features with a fascinating history. The displays and information plaques are very well presented. Please leave a good donation as places like this need to be preserved.
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