Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 1 March 2013

St David, his shrine and his cathedral

Today is the feast of St David (c.500-588/9), the patron saint of Wales, and founder of the ancient cathedral church which bears his name in Pembrokeshire. There is an account of his life and cult here.

I have visited St Davids once, and its remoteness does still give the journey a sense of pilgrimage to this holy place. The way the cathedral nestles in its valley setting adds to the element of surprise and delight upon approaching it for the first time. 


 St Davids Cathedral with the ruins of the medieval Bishop's palace in the foreground


What have been believed to be the relics of the saint remain in the cathedral. In 2002 they were examined and pronounced to be of considerably later date and from three people, one of them a woman, as detailed in the report here

An oak casket reliquary holding the reputed bones of St. David, St Justinian and possibly St Caradoc  in the Holy Trinity Chapel of St. David's Cathedral. The reliquary is in the original pilgrim's recess.

The relics in this box were discovered in 1866, then sealed up and buried under the floor of the chapel. In 1920 they were moved into their present oak casket behind an iron grille.
Image: Sacred Destinations

However there were plans to create a more elaborate shrine to the patron saint, as can be read in reports from 2010 here and also here. I understand that this has now been done, and the shrine, or at least its remains, enhanced.

The back of St. David's Shrine, built in 1275, from the north aisle. The shrine stands in its original position, but its relics and treasures were confiscated during the reformation.
Image; Sacred Destinations

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