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

Rich B (11 months ago)
A relatively small but stunningly beautiful cathedral. We visited on a very quiet morning, with almost no other visitors present and were able to spend over an hour in a peaceful setting, looking at some beautiful Norman and later architecture. Highlights are some extraordinary sculptures on tombs, a series of gorgeous illuminated manuscript copies of the psalms, the painted ceiling in the choir and tower and the amazing Bishop's Palace. Thank you to the local volunteer, who answered all of our questions patiently and knowledgably.
Erik Oppenneer (12 months ago)
A cathedral with attributes not seen in most, the most significant is the slope from the back of the church to the front is 4m and still moving. Additionally, the pillars in the main portion are not straight, they tilt to the outside walls from the center. It's steeped on history and ground breaking was in the 1100s. You can learn a great deal from talking with folks working there.
Claudia Richard (13 months ago)
If you are doing a countryside tour of wales, worth a stop on your way through. the Cathedral itself has been beautifully kept and making the area an official town. The town itself, a short walk from the parking for the cathedral has several lovely little tea and cake stops to enjoy a break along your road trip. I am not sure would make a specific trip out that way for the area but am very grateful to got to experience a beautiful space and grounds filled with a rich and dark history of the area.
Chris Miller (15 months ago)
No trip to Wales would be complete without a visit to St David’s Cathedral. It has been a place of Christian worship for one and a half millennium. The spirituality built up over the generations remains alive and is so much part of the city. Everything is beautifully maintained with a real pride among those living and being part of the community. The most lovely thing about it all is the welcome and sharing of what they hold so dear being the Cathedral. The Bishops Place gives a real picture as to the past and in particular the life lead by the Bishop himself into leading his community nearly half a millennium ago. To understand the past gives insight as to why we are today with little actually changing.
Ethan Ohs (15 months ago)
One of the more interesting cathedral complexes I’ve seen. The bishops palace is well worth the money spent and the cathedral has an amazing array of architecture. It’s great to see various periods all in one small but amazingly spectacular little cathedral.
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