Shirley's UK Trip 2012 travel blog

St David's Cathedral

Interior of St David's

Entrance to the Bishops Palace

The Great Hall of the Bishops Palace

The Bishops Palace

Solva woollen mill

The weather was much improved this morning. The sun was shining & although there were some clouds around I didn’t get any rain all day.

One of my major destinations in this part of the world was St David’s, the most westerly point on the British coast, the smallest city by population in the UK & birthplace of St David, the patron saint of Wales. It’s just over 50 miles from here but the roads were reasonable so it took about 1½ hours. I left here just after 9:00am & didn’t get home until 5:00pm so it’s been a long day but most illuminating.

I’m really not sure about St David. I read lots of things about him on information boards here (which should be authentic) & one of the first things I read was that his birth was predicted by St Patrick & Merlin. That gives you a clue. Then I read that he was credited with a lifespan of 147 years & that’s when my disbelief really kicked in. They seem to be pretty sure he died around 589 which is before St Augustine, the first missionary from Rome, came to Canterbury in 597 so he must have been a Celtic Christian but I couldn’t pick up any connection to Ireland.

I was starting to be sure it was all made up when I read this little gem.

“It became a focus of pilgrimage despite the fact that there were no relics of St David’s here. Instead, the Cathedral’s first Norman bishop, Bernard, succeeded in persuading Pope Calixtus II to grant him a privilege stating that if pilgrims visited St David’s twice in their lives they would be as blessed as if they had visited Rome once. This privilege & the wealth that pilgrims brought through their gifts, granted the bishops of St David’s enormous wealth & power.”

The original two for one deal, OK? But there’s more. No, not a set of free steak knives but it was later extended so that if you went to St David’s 3 times it was equivalent to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem!

Sorry, my cynicism is showing. Moving on, the cathedral is quite inspiring. Just like most of the great churches, this building was started by the Normans after the original wooden church was burnt down in 645 & raided by the Vikings in 988, 1080 & 1089. Apparently the monastery was long gone by the time the Normans took over this part of the country which is quite unusual.

The cathedral tower fell down in 1220 & the building was damaged by an earthquake in 1248 & after the ravages of Henry VIII then Oliver Cromwell a century later it was pretty much a romantic ruin. In the late 18th century John Nash was brought in & created a gothic fantasy which was very poorly built & most of the existing refurbishment was done by George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th century.

The ruins of the Bishops Palace built by Bishop Henry de Gower (1328 – 1347) is next to the cathedral & originally the whole area was enclosed by a 12 foot high wall. It was a testament to the great wealth & power of the bishops whose diocese covered almost half of Wales. The palace is in ruins because after the Reformation, the protestant bishops stripped all the treasures, including the lead from the roof & as most of them were Royal appointees they preferred to live in Carmarthen or London.

I drove out to Whitesands which is the very tip of the peninsular but it was very crowded with surfers so I just turned around & headed home. Just out of St David’s, I noticed a sign pointing to a woollen mill. I was intrigued & after a couple of miles along a very narrow lane I came across a little gem.

It was a tiny working mill & they were actually weaving a woollen rug on a very ancient machine. I took a very short video & will try to upload it but my internet connection is only 2 bars here so I might have trouble.

I’m getting very discouraged about writing these stories because I’m getting very little feedback. Some of you have been wonderful, for which I thank you but it takes a lot of my time so I might give it a rest for a while.

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