Patron Saint of Wales: The story of St David’s Day

The first day of March is known as St David’s Day, a celebration of the Patron Saint of Wales, who is believed to have died on this date in 589AD

St David’s Day is celebrated each year on 1 March – the supposed anniversary of the death of St David, the Patron Saint of Wales, in 589AD.

Born into an aristocratic family, St David is rumoured to have been educated in Cardiganshire (modern-day Ceredigion). Following his schooling, David travelled far and wide, eventually making his way to Jerusalem where he was appointed Archbishop.

After his pilgrimages, St David is said to have settled in Glyn Rhosyn (St Davids), in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales. Here he established a religious community and the cathedral of St David’s became a popular centre of pilgrimage. St David was renowned for performing miracles, not least while preaching at Llandewi Brefi when he is said to have elevated himself so the whole congregation could hear him.

St David’s Cathedral, StDavids, Pembrokeshire, Wales. St David‘s Day
St David’s Cathedral. Photo © Alan Thomas (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Today, the cathedral stands on the site of St David’s 6th-century monastic settlement in Britain’s smallest city. The cathedral has had a tumultuous past, with invasions, earthquakes, royal visits and numerous refurbishments.

David was officially recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120 and the day of his death was decreed a national festival in the 18th century.

Traditions of St David’s Day

To mark St David’s Day people around Wales wear one of the two national emblems: the leek or the daffodil.

As with all folklore, there is much speculation as to why these two objects exist as national emblems.

Records suggest that rulers of the Tudor dynasty introduced its guards to the wearing of leeks on St David’s Day. One story tells of an ancient king who advised men in battle to wear leeks as they fought against the Saxons to help differentiate between those who were allies and the enemy.

The daffodil, however, was more of a seasonal introduction as their spring sprouting coincides with the national day.

Today, an annual colourful parade takes place in the centre of Cardiff and concerts, markets, curated walks and festivals scatter the rest of the land in celebration of St David’s Day.

Read about St Patrick, the Patron Saint of Wales

Read about St George, the Patron Saint of England