March 1: David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c.544

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.


About This Commemoration

Despite the overwhelming victory of the pagan Angles, Saxons, andJutes in the fifth century, one part of Britain continued in the ways of Christianity—Wales, the land west of the Wye River. In this last stronghold of the old Britons, the faith sprung from Glastonbury continued to flourish.

To the family of one Sanctus in Menevia there was born a son David (“the beloved”). Little is known of his early life, but while fairly young he founded a monastery, near Menevia and became its abbot. He was later elected bishop. His strongest desire was to study and meditate in the quiet of his monastery, but he was virtually dragged to an assembly of bishops called to combat the heresy of Pelagianism. Once there, David proved to be so eloquent and learned that Archbishop Dubricius chose him as his own successor as Primate of Wales. In time, David founded eleven other monasteries in Wales, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

He is said to have been strict in the governing of his own monastery at Menevia, yet loving in his treatment and correction of wrongdoers. One of his nicknames, “the Waterman,” may indicate that he allowed the monks in his care to drink only water at meals instead of the customary wine or mead.

A scholar, a competent administrator, and a man of moderation, David filled the offices he held with distinction. He became a leaderand guardian of the Christian faith in Wales. Eventually he moved the center of episcopal government to Menevia, which is still an episcopal city, now called Ty-Dewi (House of David).

Some facts of his life can be historically established. Among them is that toward the end of his life he had several Irish saints as his pupils at the monastery. In legend—and many legends surround his life— David is clearly the foremost saint of Wales. He is revered and loved to this day as patron of Wales, foremost Christian priest, and courageous leader.


I    Almighty God, who didst call thy servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of thy mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the Gospel of Christ, we may with him receive our heavenly reward; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II    Almighty God, you called your servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the Gospel of Christ, we may with him receive our heavenly reward; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Proverbs 15:14-21

1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12

Mark 4:26-29

Psalm 16:5-11

Preface of Apostles

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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16 thoughts on “March 1: David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c.544

  1. New Hebrew Scripture reading. I am sorry – but this reading doesn’t seem particularly edifying:
    ‘Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.’ ‘A wise child makes a glad father, but the foolish despise their mothers.’

    Bio. The first paragraph reads like the opening of a novel set in Wales, not a bio regarding Saint David in HWHM.
    Might the year/place of his birth be mentioned; as well as the approximate date of his death?
    And, he needs a ‘who is is’ and ‘why he is important’ statement.

  2. “…the faith sprung from Glastonbury?” Really? I thought it sprung forth a little further away….say, from Jerusalem into all the world? Does c544 refer to his date of death? Date of actvity? This needs a rewrite that is less breezy and more factual.

  3. For once, I disagree with Michael. The Proverbs reading is perfect; the problem is that the bio doesn’t provide the background. It is said that David forbade his monks not only spirits but also meat, giving them naught but bread, water, and vegetables at meals. He also required that they harness themselves to the plow, to spare their cattle the burden.
    It’s perhaps no wonder that legend has it that David’s monks tried to poison him. St. Scuthyn learned of the plot in Ireland and rode to Mynyw on the back of a sea monster. He arrived just in time to warn David. It’s also said that as long as David’s rules were in force at the monastery, it was never molested by Irish or Viking raiders. When a later bishop relaxed the rule in 999, Danish raiders promptly looted the town and killed the bishop.
    HWHM and LFF follow Baring-Gould (who somewhat rashly follows Goeffrey of Monmouth) in giving David’s date of death as 544, but the Encyclopaedia Britannica says 600, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church offers 601, and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints says 601 OR 589. Everyone agrees that he lived to a ripe old age, given in our sources as anything from 98 and 147, so the choice of a birth date would depend on whose death date and which life span you accept. The 10th century Annales Cambriae gives his death as 601. Other sources date the Synod of Victory, which he called as one of his first acts as bishop, to 569. To have presided at a church council 25 years after his death would have unusual, but as a miracle it is not much less credible than many with which David is credited by his biographers.
    The Welsh spelling of the original name of St. David’s (the city) is Mynyw. “Menevia” is the Latinate English name. As the Welsh will someday “raise the pure banner of St. David” and drive out the English, we might as well start with HWHM.
    HWHM and LFF give the city of St. David’s Welsh name as “Ty-Dewi.” The Welsh seem to use that form to name yachts and retirement homes, but the city and the diocese spell it “Tyddewi.” The Encyclopaedia Britannica hedges its bets, giving it as Ty-Dewi under “David, Saint” and Tyddewi under “St. David’s” (the city). I’ve also seen “Ty-ddewi” and “Ty Ddewi,” The saint’s name is also commonly given as “Dafydd,” from whence we get “Taffy.”
    “Jutes” might well be removed from the write-up, as post-World War II archaeological and linguistic studies have cast considerable doubt as to whether the Jutes even existed as an ethnic body in those days. The same studies have all but disproved their participation in the Anglo-Saxon “invasions” of Britain. (I says “all but” only because absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.)
    It’s also a bit ironic that today we honor a saint famed as the opponent of Pelagianism, while yesterday – had it been a leap year – we would have commemorated the father of Semipelagianism.

  4. Steve – thanks for the additional information. I hope some of it gets into HWHM. I like the metal picture of a saint arriving by sea-monster. Would it be a good idea to supply pronunciation for the Welsh terms and names? HIstoricity in some of these commemorations is a mixed bag. It would be good to have both legend and history, clearly labled. Same for St Nicholas.

  5. Of course no need to kick him – just need for a better, more robust [to use the current catch word] – biography. My Welsh ancestors would be much offended if he were dropped, and much pleased with a better write-up.

  6. Not only Cynthia’s ancestors but also the United States Marines and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers would take offense. Ever since the Marines and the Fusiliers were brigaded together in the relief of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion, the Commandant and the Fusiliers’ Colonel have exchanged greetings on this date: “And St. David”!

  7. The bio is anemic and one almost gets the impression that the SCLM has made this, and other, bios pale in order to justify the removal of older commemorations to make room for new ones.

    • The SCLM has not changed this bio from the LFF editions. David has been in the calendar a long time. This bio has not been made ‘to pale in order to justify the removal of older commemorations to make room for new ones.’
      There are plenty of new ones that ‘pale’ all by themselves 🙂 We won’t have to worry about that.

    • John R uses “anemic” — and I find that in the syntax but not in the content. My impression while reading was a children’s book, with one sentence to a double page and appealing illustrations on each page for very young children to absorb — at the library story hour, with a nice person reading and the children seated on the floor. (No purple dinosaurs are allowed in the library.) I find it worded too “young” for HWHM. Do we have this in a nice Lego format?

  8. Unfortunately the hagiography for Saint David or Dewi Sant was written in the late 11th century or about 500 years after his death. He was not canonized until 1120 by Pope Callistus II during the reign of Henry I. Since we really have no idea when he died, perhaps it would be better to say that he lived in the 6th century.

    I thought the point of commemorating St. David was in part to show that not all of Great Britain’s churches were subject to Canterbury.

    Thank you Steve Lusk for all the additional information. This should be in the short bio to make the commemoration more understandable and meaningful.

  9. David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c.544

    Paragraph 1: I wonder how many who don’t know where Wales is, know where the Wye River is? Or who Mr. Glastonbury might be. 🙂
    Paragraph 2: I’d feel better without my mental picture of a 6 year old abbot; please tell me he was in his teens?! (I don’t really know what “fairly young” means.) Elected bishop of where? (Elected “later” that day? That year? “Later” than “fairly young”? “Later” means???) And everyone will be familiar with Pelagianism? (No thumbnail description needed?) Also SOME sense of birth/death dates (even disputed options) seems necessary.
    Paragraph 4: “Episcopal government” sounds like a theocracy governed Wales.
    Paragraph 5: “He had several Irish saints as his pupils.” We’re using non-Anglican terminology here (we reserve “saint” for biblical era individuals, and for all the baptized, even though we also say Saint Patrick or Saint Columba in informal contexts; although we do call most parishes, some religious orders and many guilds “Saint Somebody’s”, even those named for post-biblical persons). In any case, they wouldn’t have called themselves “saint” on their monastery application forms, so it seems a bit anachronistic to say “he had several Irish saints as his pupils.” At best they were just “saint-interns” “apprentice saints” or “saint understudies” – budding saints, all.
    COLLECT: Another “ALMIGHTY” invocation. (See my comments on invocations in Chad’s commemoration.) Is “almighty” the best and the most tightly integrated aspect of God by which we can tie the invocation to the spirit of the commemoration, the petition, and the “so that” clause of the collect? No, it’s just easy and annoyingly devoid of contextual implication.
    “Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the Gospel of Christ, we may with him receive our heavenly reward” – Sounds “cause and effect.” Slightly Pelagian? It’s definitely an example of “fire and life insurance” Christianity:– pay your premiums on earth, collect the payoff in heaven. It isn’t an unusual permutation of the gospel, but more thoughtful wording in the petition and the “so that” clause could bring it more into the “inaugurated eschatology” thought-world described by N T Wright in “Surprised by Hope.” (I like that the collect reaches out to the eschatological, but it could do it better.)
    “Better a commemoration replete with patchwork aphorisms than a year devoid of holy memory. And the psalm is good, too.
    The epistle could have begun at verse 8, in my opinion. The prior verses could be dropped or kept as an optional lengthening. The gospel is eschatological, like the collect, but I don’t see why this is the reading selected. It won’t kill anyone to hear it, but I don’t know what connection to David is intended.
    SUMMARY: I actually found it difficult to engage deeply – I suspect, because of the juvenile “child’s book” tone. (I was literally picturing where the pages would divide the text, and what illustrations might apply on the various pages.)

  10. I suggest a revised subtitle: “Patron Saint of Wales”.

    Line 4, first paragraph: “the faith sprung from Glastonbury” needs some explanation. What happened in that ancient city and when? The reference will be obscure to most readers, who don’t know the legendary account of Joseph of Arimathea’s journey to England.

    Line 1, second paragraph: add “in about the year 500” after “born”.

    Line 2, fifth paragraph: “in about 589” after “life”.

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