The truth behind the myth of Saint David has been revealed this week with the publishing of a book that will throw new light on the mysterious life of Wales’ patron saint.
In Pursuit of Saint David by historian Gerald Morgan follows the life of Saint David, looking at how the myths and traditions that surround the historical figure have come to be and how he eventually became such an important part of Welsh history.
‘His is a most remarkable story’ says Gerald Morgan, ‘Everyone in Wales knows something about Saint David, the patron saint of Wales – that he lived long ago, that Saint Davids was his home, and that the ground in Llanddewi Brefi rose up from under his feet so everyone could hear him’.
‘But who was David really? What did he do? The purpose of my research is to help people know about the many-sided figure who was and is the patron saint of Wales – Saint David – through the centuries.’ explained Gerald, ‘It will attempt to determine what we can know about David – man, saint, patron and legend.’
And Gerald says that there will be some unexpected surprises along the way.
‘St David was and is a man for all seasons. His was a shadowy figure who became a major personage in the medieval British pilgrim movement. This is a saint whose name was a war cry on the lips of the fierce Cambro-Norman invaders of Ireland in 1176’ he explained, ‘To others, David was a figure of significance at the Reformation, when some claimed him as a representative of Christianity, uncorrupted by Roman Catholic teaching, at a time when England was pagan. To the fantasist-historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, David was a nephew of King Arthur, the successor of Dyfrig as archbishop of Caerleon and then St Davids’
‘He became a favourite of the Welsh poets until the Reformation, as well as of Henry Tudor’ added Gerald, ‘Every generation has refashioned David to fit the times and he has survived in the consciousness of the Welsh people to this day’.
Saint David’s name is now given to hundreds of colleges, schools, clubs, business centres, concert halls and hospitals worldwide. He is celebrated in Wales and in societies around the world on the 1 st of March.
Gerald Morgan is a teacher and historian. After teaching English at Ysgol Maes Garmon and Ysgol Gyfun Aberteifi , he became headmaster of Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni and then Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig, Aberystwyth. He has published a substantial number of books and articles, most particularly on the history of Ceredigion and Wales.
In Pursuit of Saint David by Gerald Morgan (£5.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.