Celtic roots and Wales' patron saint

Ancient field patterns and Carn Llidi

Named after the patron saint of Wales, St David’s is the smallest city in Britain and is home to a wealth of history. From Celtic roots to a place of pilgrimage, the coastal city has been a sought-after spot for thousands of years.

Celtic roots

People have lived in St David’s and the wider area for at least 6,000 years, with reminders of our prehistoric ancestors dotted across the landscape. Look closely and you’ll find the remains of Iron Age forts, ancient field patterns, enclosures and defensive banks.

Wales’ patron saint and a place of pilgrimage

St David is believed to have been born in AD 500 to St Non, in the area just south of the city and later baptised in Porth Clais. David had a religious upbringing and upon reaching adulthood was ordained a priest, working firstly in Wales before travelling to England, Brittany and even Jerusalem.

He founded the monastery, where St David’s Cathedral sits today, in AD 550 – although being so close to the sea meant the structure was prone to Viking attacks. The cathedral that now stands proud in the city dates back to the 12th century and is the final resting place of David himself.

He was made the patron saint of Wales in the 12th century. Pope Calixtus II stated that David’s shrine was so important that two pilgrimages to St David’s were equivalent to one to Rome and three were equivalent to one to Jerusalem.

As such, his shrine has become a popular destination with pilgrims from far and wide.

St David's Cross in the city centre
St David's Cross
St David's Cross in the city centre

St David's City Cross

This well-known landmark in the centre of St David's is a medieval preaching cross – it’s been in our care since 1983. The shaft is original, the head and six-step base being more modern. It's opposite the National Trust Visitor Centre and Shop.

The monument is one of many along an historic route of pilgrimage to the cathedral. The cathedral itself was built with stone from our cliffs at Caerbwdy on the Solva Coast.

The Monks' Dyke

The Monks’ Dyke or Ffos y Mynach is thought to mark the limit monks and priests could move from St David’s Cathedral. It runs across the St David’s Peninsula, joining together several National Trust places, from Morfa Common in the south, Dowrog Common near the city and Pen Beri on the north coast.

You can retrace much of it with the help of an Ordnance Survey map, on a combination of footpaths and minor roads.