David, Patron Saint of Wales
‘I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name.’ Psalm 18.49
In the March edition of the Breda Messenger I often centre my thoughts on the person of St. Patrick since his Day is the 17th March. But what about the other saint who has his Day in March? Who was St. David and why has he become the patron saint of Wales?
The first thing to point out is that David was a real, historical figure – unlike his English counterpart St George. He was born around 520AD and died around 600AD – supposedly on 1st March, hence St David’s Day. However, while we know much about the real Patrick through the writings he has left us, we know very little about the real David. Most early material about him is clearly legendary in form. David is usually depicted standing on a hill with a dove on his shoulder, relating to a legendary miracle he performed.
David (Dewi) was probably born in what is now Pembrokeshire. By David’s time Christianity had come to Wales, brought by the soldiers and traders of the Roman Empire. He likely attended the College of Theodosius, founded in the fourth century as a centre of theological and philosophical learning. It was the foremost theological institution in Britain, with at one time as many as 2,000 students attending from all over Europe.
In his ministry he is famous for speaking so well against the heresy of Pelagius at the Synod of Brefi that he was elected Primate of the region we know today as Wales. He then presided at the Synod of Victory held at Caerleon-on-Usk, Monmouthshire, which supposedly defeated Pelagianism in Britain. Pelagianism minimised the depth of human sinfulness and the grace of God, and emphasised humanity’s ability to reach out to God by itself.
David was recognised as the most outstanding of the bishops in the area. Through his leadership, many monks went forth to evangelise Wales, Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany. His reputation is therefore orthodox and evangelical.
Like most western nations modern Wales has been disastrously affected by rampant secularism and materialism. The task of the Church there is as challenging today as it must have been for David – perhaps more so. That great nation of hymn-singing, revivals and Biblical expository preaching – typified by probably the greatest British preacher of the last century, Martin Lloyd-Jones – now requires lots of prayer. My prayer is that the Welsh Church would return in faith and hope to the Lord and his Word that it may be blessed in its witness and evangelism.
Sincerely in Christ