Thursday, 27 January 2011

Second only to Rome..Britain's smallest city

Nestling in the far West of Pembrokeshire, on the tip of Wales lies Britain's smallest city with a population of only 1,600 souls. St David's, or Dewi Sant in Welsh, has long been a holy place and home of the great saint himself.

Built in the depths of a valley to avoid attention from the Vikings!
 The Cathedral is also small but beautiful nonetheless and it lies deep in a small valley at one end of the city. It was built deep in the valley so that it would not be seen by the marauding Vikings who sacked, plundered and pillaged to their heart's delight. It did not escape the attentions of that other marauding sex maniac, Henry XVIII whose men systematically committed sacrilege with the Cathedral and its furnishings and valuables.
Adjacent to the Cathedral are the ruins of the Bishop's Palace.

The Bishop's Palace. Built by Saints destroyed by Sinners
 It is easy to stand outside the Cathedral and be aware of the remnants of the walls of the city and to imagine how, in the middle ages, the local community would have assembled within the city walls at night, for safety's sake. And how the monks would have offered employment to farm labourers, schools for the children and hospitals for the sick.
A veritable society of care and charity which all came to an abrupt end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
In medieval times, two pilgrimages to St David's were equal to one to Rome  and what is now the A40 provided much of the route of the pilgrims intent on fulfilling their considerable task of paying homage to God in one of His holy places.
A few miles outside the county town of Haverfordwest lies Slebech Park, now a luxury hotel complex for the wealthy.  This was a final stopping off point before arriving in the city and within the grounds is a ruined chapel with a sarcophagus containing the pickled hearts of the Crusader Knights who died in battle in the Holy Land.
Less than a  mile outside St David's lies St Non's Well, (St Non being the mother of the saint).

St Non's Well - a place to take the waters in medieval times
The water here is supposed to have miraculous properties. Cross the stile and you are in the grounds of a Catholic Retreat house, also called St Non's. It stands atop the cliffs of Pembrokeshire and you look out at the distant shores of Ireland, well, you can't see them but they are there.

St Non's has a faux medieval chapel in the grounds built in, I think, 1938. It is charming despite its youth and cries out for a Latin Mass to be celebrated at its original altar.
St Non's Chapel
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path stretches out for many miles in both directions and provides for some of the best sea views in the country.

It would be rather a good thing if the Church of Wales would care to endow the Diocese of Menevia with the title deeds to St David's Cathedral, in the spirit of the Ordinariate, of course! It is so very rich in Catholic history and yet, typically, its Catholic heritage just does not appear in much of the information regarding this  
                                               Church and its past.


  1. Who is this Saint David? David I of Scotland or the king of Israel? Or maybe another?

  2. Ciao Samuele - my Welsh friends will be having apoplexy! St David is, as I am sure you know, the patron Saint of Wales, monk, abbot and bishop of the 6th century.It is said of him that, as a penance, he would stand up to his neck in a freezing lake saying his prayers for hours on end.
    Feastday - March 1st.

  3. Richard - I attended a TLM at St Non's chapel a couple of years back. It was very moving. We had tea with the M&S Nuns afterwards... ;-)

  4. Gareth - you are fortunate. I wish I had been there. Who was the celebrant?

  5. Leggete gli articoli, seguendo i link e
    Cordiali saluti e buona lettura.