1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/St Davids

ST DAVIDS (Tyddewi), a cathedral town of Pembrokeshire, Wales, situated near the sea to the S.E. of St David's Head, the most westerly promontory of South Wales. Pop. (1901) 1710. St Davids is 10 m. distant from the station of Letterston on the Great Western railway, and about 16 m. from Fishguard to the N.E., and 16 m. from Haverfordwest to the E. The little town, locally known as “ the city,” stands in a lofty position east of the Cathedral Close, and consists of five streets, which converge on an open space called the Cross Keys, formerly used as a market-place and distinguished by its High Cross, a single shaft erect on a square base of six steps, restored in 1873. From the cross a lane leads westward to the Tower Gate, flanked by two ancient towers in a ruinous condition. From this point is obtained a superb view of the close with the cathedral and ruined palace in the valley of the Alun below, to which the rocky outline of Carn Llidi forms an imposing background. The cathedral church of SS. Andrew and David, in spite of centuries of neglect and ill-advised alterations, remains the largest and most interesting pile of ecclesiastical buildings in the Principality. It is largely built of a beautiful purple-hued sandstone, which is quarried locally. Its proportions are: length (exclusive of the Trinity and Lady chapels),254½ ft.; breadth of nave and aisles, 51½ ft.; breadth of transepts including tower, 116 ft.; and height of central tower, 116 ft. In spite of the antiquity of its foundation, the earliest and main portion of the existing fabric was erected under Bishop Peter de Leia (1176–1198) in the transitional Norman-English style. Bishop David Martyn (1290–1328) built the Lady Chapel; Bishop Henry de Gower (1328–1347), one of the greatest of ecclesiastical builders in Wales, made many additions in the Decorated style, including the stone rood-screen and southern porch; and Bishop Edward Vaughan (1509–1522) erected the Trinity Chapel between the choir and Lady Chapel. Under the last-named prelate the magnificence of St Davids reached its height, but owing to the changes during the Reformation and the unscrupulous rapacity of Bishop William Barlow (1536–1548) the fabric suffered severely; nor was it spared later during the Civil Wars, when the Lady Chapel, the aisles of the presbytery, and even the transepts were unroofed and partially dismantled. In 1793 the cathedral was repaired by Thomas Nash, who rebuilt the western front in a debased Per ndicular style. The work of much-needed restoration was carried)i>ut throughout the latter half of the 19th century, especially between 1862 and 1869, when Sir Gilbert Scott strengthened the building at a cost of over £43,000. In 1873 Nash's incongruous work was replaced by a new façade intended to harmonize with the original design of Bishop de Leia, and at the beginning of the 20th century the Lady Chapel and Bishop Vaughan's chapel were restored in memory of Bishop Basil Jones (d. 1897) and of Deans Allen and Phillips. The interior of the nave, separated by six wide bays from the aisles, is singularly im sing with its triforium and clerestory windows. It possesses an elaborate roof of Irish oak, the gift of Treasurer Owen Pole (c. 1500). The nave is divided from the choir by Bishop Gower's fine stone screen, whilst the choir itself contains the richly carved stalls erected by Bishop Tully (1460-1481), the episcopal throne, and an elegant oaken screen that serves to separate choir and presbytery. he painted roof (freely restored) exhibits the coats-of-arms of Bishops Tully and Richard Martin, Treasurer Owen Pole and other benefactors. The eastern wall of the choir has been greatly altered by the addition of modern Venetian mosaic designs in the original lower triplet of lights, and by the insertion of lancet windows in place of a large Perpendicular window of the 15th century. Bishop Vaughan's chapel contains fine Tudor fan vaulting, and the Lady Chapel good decorated sedilia. The cathedral, before the Reformation, was remarkably rich in sculptured tombs and monuments, but many of these have perished and all the brasses have disappeared. Inthe presbytery stands prominent the altar tomb with modern brasses inserted of Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond (d. 1456), father of King Henry VII. Amon the other surviving monuments, all more or less injured and deficed, are the tombs of Bishop Gower and of several bishops of St Davids; the canopied effigies popularly but erroneously attributed to Prince Rhys (d. 1196) and his son Rhys; the stone liase of the destroyed shrine of St David; a priest's effigy formerly believed to be that of the celebrated Giraldus Cambrensis; and the large Iacobean monument of Treasurer Thomas Lloyd (d. 1612). To the north of the cathedral is to be seen the ruined shell of the beautiful chapel with an adjoining tower, forming part of the college of St Mary, founded by John of Gaunt and Bishop Adam Houghton in 1377.

On the west bank of the Alun stands the splendid and indeed unique ruin of the episcopal palace erected, by Bishop Gower (c. 1342). Built for the pur ose of culture and entertainment rather than for defence, Bishop Gower's ecclesiastical mansion is “ essentially a palace and not a castle; and it is hardly too much to affirm that it is altogether unsurpassed by any existing English edifice of its kind.” Built upon vaulted cellars, the palace occupies three sides of a quadrangle 120 ft. square, and though roofless and deserted for nearly three hundred years it retains most of its principal features. The great hall, 96 ft. by 33 ft., possesses a traceries wheel-window; the chief portal is still imposing; and the chapel retains its curious bell-turret; while the peculiar but singularly graceful arcaded parapet of the roof extends intact throughout the whole length of the building. Partially dismantled by Bishop Barlow (c. 1540) the half-ruined palace was occasionally occupied by succeeding bishops prior to the Civil Wars, and in 1633 a chapter was held within its walls under Bishop Field.

The Close, 18 acres in extent and extra-parochial, contains the deanery and other residences of the cathedral clergy, mostly occupying the sites of ancient buildin s. It formerly owned four gateways, of which the South or, Tower gate alone remains. The whole of the wild and bleak but picturesque neighbourhood of St Davids teems with legendary and historical associations, and cromlechs and ruined chapels are numerous, amongst the latter the chapels of St Justinian (Capel Stinan) and St Non being the most remarkable.

History.—At some unknown period in the 6th century the celebrated patron saint of Wales, Dewi or David, removed the chief seat of South Welsh ecclesiastical life to Menevia or Menapia (Mynyw), which is traditionally reported to have been the saint's birthplace. The site chosen for this new foundation was the marshy valley of the Alun—the Vallis Rosina of medieval historians—and this spot became known henceforth as Tyddewi or St Davids. The dread of an imminent Anglo-Saxon invasion of Gwent, the determination to remove his monastic clergy from court influence, and the desire of opening closer communication with the sister Churches of Ireland, are among the various reasons suggested for David's remarkable policy, which made St Davids the leading religious centre in South Wales for nearly a thousand years. From the 7th to the 11th centuries the successors of St David occasionally ventured to exercise metropolitan rights over South Wales, and even over all land west of the Severn, and the character and extent of these ancient claims have frequently been made the subject of speculation or controversy among historians, some of whom have not hesitated to designate the early Celtic holders of the see by the title of “ archbishop.” These ill-defined claims were destroyed by St Anselme's forcible appointment of the Norman monk Bernard to the bishopric in III 5, from which date to the present timeiSt Davids has ranked as a suffragan see of Canterbury; nor has its ancient independence ever been seriously asserted, save by the intrepid Gerald de Barri (Giraldus Cambrensis), who vainly strove from 1199 to 1203 to induce Pope Innocent III. to acknowledge the power of the cathedral chapter to elect its own bishops without reference to English king or primate. St Davids early became populal as a place of pilgrimage, and amongst the many suppliants who visited St David's shrine were William the Conqueror, Henry II. and Edward I. with Queen Eleanor. Probably with a view to conciliate the native clergy for Anselme's unpopular policy in Wales, Henry I. obtained from Pope Calixtus II. the canonization of St David about 1120, and in local esteem two pilgrimages to St Davids were vulgarly supposed to be equivalent to one journey to Rome itself: a sentiment preserved in the curious monkish hexameter:

          “ Roma semel quantum bis dat Menevia tantum.”

From 1115 to the Reformation the see was held by prelates

(many of them natives of Wales) who did much to enrich and beautify the vast group of ecclesiastical buildings in the Closer But with the partial destruction of the palace and the removal of the episcopal residence to Abergwili, it was not long before St Davids sank into a mere monument of its former splendour and importance. In 1 5 39 Bishop Barlow even petitioned Thomas Cromwell for permission to remove the see itself” to Carmarthen, a request which tradition declares Henry VIII. refused to grant solely out of respect for the memory of his grandfather Edmund Tudor, Whose tomb had recently been taken from the suppressed priory of Grey Friars at Carmarthen and set up before the high altar of the cathedral. During the 17th and 18th centuries all the ancient buildings of the Close, except the cathedral (which served also as a parish church for the village of St Davids), were allowed to fall into hopeless ruin. Amongst the 119 bishops who have held the see since its foundation by St David may be mentioned Asser, the friend of King Alfred (d. 906); Samson (10th century), honoured by the Welsh chroniclers with the proud title of “ Archbishop of the Isle of Britain ”; Rhyddmarch (d. 1096), the first biographer of St David; Henry de Gower (d. 1347), the munificent patron of art; Robert Ferrar, burned at Carmarthen in 1555 under Queen Mary; Richard Davies (d. 1581), patriot and translator of the Welsh Book of Common Prayer; Archbishop William Laud, bishop of the see between 1621 and 1627; George Bull, divine (d. 1710); and Connop Thirlwall, scholar and historian (d. 1875). The official title of the bishops of St Davids is Episcopus Menevensis.  (H. M. V.)