St David’s Church, Llanddewi Brefi

St David’s Church, Llanddewi Brefi

According to legend, the mound on which this church stands is the result of a miracle performed by Dewi Sant (St David), Wales’ patron saint.

A barrow may have existed here in prehistoric times. It’s likely that early Christians used the site, possibly for a small monastic community. Six stones with Christian carvings which you can see inside the church are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries. One of them, from the 7th century, is the earliest written record of Dewi Sant.

Tradition has it that c.550 Dewi preached here against Pelagianism, which contended that people were basically good and sinned of their own free will. This was treated as heresy and largely suppressed in the 5th century.

Gerald of Wales wrote, after his visit here in 1188 with the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the heresy had reappeared in this area like a recurring plague when Dewi attended a synod at this spot. The synod was a gathering where Christian leaders rebutted Pelagianism in front of a crowd of people. As Dewi preached, the ground under his feet rose up (enabling the entire crowd to see and hear him). This prompted the synod to choose him as the new Archbishop, although Dewi was reluctant. Gerald also wrote that this resulted in the main seat of Welsh Christianity moving from Caerleon to St Davids.

The church which Gerald visited was replaced with a stone structure later in the medieval period. The church’s central “crossing” dates from the 13th or 14th century, and the tower above it from the 15th.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries parts of the old church collapsed. There was extensive rebuilding at different times in the 19th century.

Sir David Davies, baptised in the church in 1792, was physician to King William IV and Queen Adelaide. She reputedly donated the church pews in Sir David’s honour.

Postcode: SY25 6RN    View Location Map

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