The history of St David’s Day

The first day of March marks the anniversary of the death of the patron saint of Wales, St David or Dewi Sant, commemorated as the national day of Wales

St David’s Cathedral basking in sunlight. Image credit: VisitBritain

As the patron saint of Wales, the commemoration of St David on the anniversary of St David’s death in 589AD on the 1 March is a significant celebration on the British cultural calendar.

St David is rumoured to have been educated in Cardiganshire before making his way to Jerusalem where he was appointed as Archbishop.

After his pilmgrimages he is said to have settled in Glyn Rhosyn (St David’s) in south-west Wales. Here he established a religious community and the cathedral of St David’s became a popular centre of pilgrimage.

Stained glass, Our Lady and Saint Non’s chapel, St David’s, Wales, 1934. Image credit: Wikipedia

The cathedral stands today on the site of St David’s 6th century monastic settlement. The cathedral has had a tumultuous past with invasions, earthquakes, royal visits and refurbishments. It stands today in Pembrokeshire as a mighty symbol of religious pilgrimage and as a remarkable reminder of Welsh heritage.

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

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

Like any 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 the national 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 them 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 this national day.


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