David of Wales is the patron saint of Wales; his feast day is today. He was a monastic, teacher and preacher. David founded monasteries in Wales, Dumnonia and Brittany, and what became St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.
His monasteries were known for strict rules. Monks had to pull their own plows; animals were not allowed. Their diet was only water, bread with salt and herbs and a few vegetables. They were not allowed to have possessions; even saying “my book” was an infraction of the rules because it implied personal possession.
Many legends surround David. One is that he lived for 140 years. Another is that once while he was preaching at the Synod of Brefi, a white dove landed on his shoulder. A dove became one of his symbols; most portraits of David show him with a white dove on his shoulder. The other symbol of David is the leek, an emblem of the Welsh that even appears in a play by William Shakespeare (Henry V). He is perhaps best known for his fierce denunciation of Pelagius at the Synod. (Pelagius denied original sin, and claimed that Augustine was a heretic.) Shortly thereafter he was made an archbishop.
David died on March 1, 589. He is buried at St. David’s Cathedral. Churches all over the world are named in his honor, and many Welsh celebrate St. David’s Day with festive banquets.