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  • St Davids City - A Pocket-Sized Welsh City with a Past as Big as its Cathedral

    St Davids City -  A Brief History

    Nestled between the windswept hills and rugged coastline of the most western edge of Pembrokeshire, St David’s holds the title of "Britain's smallest city." But size belies significance. This charming Welsh city boasts a history far grander than its cobbled streets and quaint houses suggest. To step into St Davids City is to journey back through time, where whispers of saints, pilgrims, and ancient kingdoms still linger in the salty air.


    St Davids City and its cathedral
    St Davids city and its cathedral with Carn Llidi mountain in the background


    St Davids Day and Other Celebration Days in Wales


    Our story begins in the 6th century, with the birth of Dewi Sant, better known as St David. Legend has it he arrived during a dramatic storm, his birth heralded by a white dove and an earthquake. He grew to become a revered monk, setting up a monastic community here at a place called Glyn Rhosyn – the "Valley of Roses." This humble settlement laid the foundation for the St David’s we know today.

    Following St David’s death in 584 AD, his reputation as a miracle worker and wise leader blossomed. Pilgrims flocked from across Britain and Europe, eager to visit his shrine. By the 12th century, St David’s had transformed into a major pilgrimage destination, rivalling even Rome in its importance. In fact, Pope Calixtus II declared that two pilgrimages to St David’s were equivalent to one to Rome, and three to Jerusalem!

    Building a Shrine, Forging a Nation

    With the influx of pilgrims came wealth and ambition. The modest monastery evolved into a magnificent cathedral, a testament to the city's growing prestige. Completed in the 13th century, St Davids Cathedral is still a masterpiece of medieval architecture, its purple-hued sandstone soaring skywards, echoing the wild beauty of the Pembrokeshire coast.

    The cathedral wasn't just a place of worship; it was a symbol of Welsh identity. As Norman influence swept across Wales, St Davids became a beacon of national pride. Here, the Welsh language thrived, and Welsh bishops defended the country's cultural and religious autonomy. It's no wonder that in 1284, Edward I of England chose St Davids to crown his son the first Prince of Wales – a symbolic gesture aimed at appeasement during a tumultuous period.

    Through the Ages, Enduring Spirit

    Through the centuries, St Davids weathered the storms of history. The Reformation saw the decline of pilgrimages and the dissolution of the monasteries. Yet, the city held fast to its spiritual centre. In 1803, it became a diocese, and in 1995, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon it the much-deserved title of city.

    Today, St David’s welcomes visitors not just for its historical riches, but also for its natural beauty. Nestled within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the city offers breath-taking coastal walks, rugged cliffs, and secluded beaches. It's a haven for wildlife, with seals basking on the rocks and dolphins occasionally gracing the waves.

    Numbers tell a story

    • Over 150,000 tourists visit St Davids City every year, contributing significantly to the local economy (Pembrokeshire Tourism).
    • The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, where St Davids City is located, attracts over 3 million visitors annually. The main visitor centre in St Davids is Oriel y Parc, on the road to Solfa town (Pembrokeshire Tourism).
    • Tourism in Wales generates over £3 billion per year and supports over 75,000 jobs (Visit Wales).
    • St Davids Cathedral, a Grade I listed building, is one of the oldest continuously used cathedrals in Britain and welcomes over 200,000 visitors annually (St Davids Cathedral).

    But St Davids city is more than just a tourist destination. It's a living community, steeped in tradition. The Welsh language still resonates in the streets, and local festivals like the Feast of St David (March 1) and the Regatta Week in August draw crowds eager to celebrate Welsh heritage.


    Oriel y Parc - Pembrokeshire Coast National Park visitor centre St David's cross in the city centre St David's War Memorial in the city centre St Davids with nearby Whitesands Bay and Carn Llidi mountain
    St Davids city - Clockwise, Oriel y Parc visitor centre,  St Davids Cross, War Memorial and nearby Whitesands Bay and Carn Llidi


    Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking a charming escape, St Davids city has something for you. This tiny city, with its towering cathedral and windswept beauty, embodies the enduring spirit of Wales. So come, delve into its rich past, explore its stunning surroundings, and discover why this pocket-sized city holds a place so grand in the history of Britain.

    St Davids Day Essentials

    • When is St Davids Day - 1st March each year
    • When was St David bornThe exact date of his birth is unknown, but popular belief is that he was born around the year 500. Story has it that he was born on a Pembrokeshire cliff during a thunderstorm. His birthplace is marked by the ruins of Non's chapel and a nearby holy well is said to have healing powers. 
    • Why does Wales celebrate St Davids Day - St David was the Patron Saint of Wales who died on 1st March 589 AD. It is Wales' own day in the annual calendar. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that St David’s Day became a National Day of Celebration in Wales.
    • Is St Davids Day a Bank Holiday in Wales or the UK - currently (January 2024) it is not a bank holiday in Wales. It is however a subject of much debate and lobbying of politicians.
    • What do daffodils and leeks have to do with the St Davids Day celebrations - The daffodil and Leek are both national symbols of Wales and you’ll see them being displayed, or worn on St David’s Day as a sign of national pride and celebration. The leek is the national emblem of Wales and according to legend was created by St David himself, who ordered Welsh soldiers to wear them on their helmets during battle. 
    • What is Happy St Davids Day in Welsh - Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus
    • What is St David, the city, in Welsh - Ty Ddewi
    • What happens on St Davids Day - In the capital city of Wales, Cardiff, a National St Davids Day parade is held with lots of exciting performances by dragons and theatre groups. Nowadays St Davids Day is celebrated the world over.

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    Last updated 1st March 2024

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