Itineray of Baldwin in Wales

Author: Giraldus Cambrensis

Chapter I of the See of Saint David’s

We are informed by the British histories, that Dubricius, archbishop of Caerleon, sensible of the infirmities of age, or rather being desirous of leading a life of contemplation, resigned his honours to David, who is said to have been uncle to king Arthur; and by his interest the see was translated to Menevia, although Caerleon, as we have observed in the first book, was much better adapted for the episcopal see. For Menevia is situated in a most remote corner of land upon the Irish ocean, the soil stony and barren, neither clothed with woods, distinguished by rivers, nor adorned by meadows, ever exposed to the winds and tempests, and continually subject to the hostile attacks of the Flemings on one side, and of the Welsh on the other. For the holy men who settled here, chose purposely such a retired habitation, that by avoiding the noise of the world, and preferring an heremitical to a pastoral life, they might more freely provide for "that part which shall not be taken away;" for David was remarkable for his sanctity and religion, as the history of his life will testify. Amongst the many miracles recorded of him, three appear to me the most worthy of admiration: his origin and conception; his pre-election thirty years before his birth; and what exceeds all, the sudden rising of the ground, at Brevy, under his feet while preaching, to the great astonishment of all the beholders.

Since the time of David, twenty-five archbishops presided over the see of Menevia, whose names are here subjoined: David, Cenauc, Eliud, who was also called Teilaus, Ceneu, Morwal, Haerunen, Elwaed, Gurnuen, Lendivord, Gorwysc, Cogan, Cledauc, Anian, Euloed, Ethelmen, Elauc, Malscoed, Sadermen, Catellus, Sulhaithnai, Nonis, Etwal, Asser, Arthuael, Sampson. In the time of Sampson, the pall was translated from Menevia in the following manner: a disorder called the yellow plague, and by the physicians the icteric passion, of which the people died in great numbers, raged throughout Wales, at the time when Sampson held the archiepiscopal see. Though a holy man, and fearless of death, he was prevailed upon, by the earnest intreaties of his people, to go on board a vessel, which was wafted, by a south wind, to Britannia Armorica, {121} where he and his attendants were safely landed. The see of Dol being at that time vacant, he was immediately elected bishop. Hence it came to pass, that on account of the pall which Sampson had brought thither with him, the succeeding bishops, even to our times, always retained it. But during the presidency of the archbishop of Tours, this adventitious dignity ceased; yet our countrymen, through indolence or poverty, or rather owing to the arrival of the English into the island, and the frequent hostilities committed against them by the Saxons, lost their archiepiscopal honours. But until the entire subjugation of Wales by king Henry I., the Welsh bishops were always consecrated by the bishop of St. David’s; and he was consecrated by his suffragans, without any profession or submission being made to any other church.

From the time of Sampson to that of king Henry I., nineteen bishops presided over this see: Ruelin, Rodherch, Elguin, Lunuerd, Nergu, Sulhidir, Eneuris, Morgeneu, who was the first bishop of St. David’s who ate flesh, and was there killed by pirates; and he appeared to a certain bishop in Ireland on the night of his death, shewing his wounds, and saying, "Because I ate flesh, I am become flesh." Nathan, Ievan (who was bishop only one night), Argustel, Morgenueth, Ervin, Tramerin, Joseph, Bleithud, Sulghein, Abraham, Wilfred. Since the subjugation of Wales to the present time, three only have held the see: in the reign of king Henry I., Bernard; in the reign of king Stephen, David II.; and in the reign of king Henry II., Peter, a monk of the order of Cluny; who all, by the king’s mandate, were consecrated at Canterbury; as also Geoffrey, prior and canon of Lanthoni, who succeeded them in the reign of king John, and was preferred to this see by the interest of Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, and afterwards consecrated by him. We do not hear that either before or after that subjugation, any archbishop of Canterbury ever entered the borders of Wales, except Baldwin, a monk of the Cistercian order, abbot of Ford, and afterwards bishop of Worcester, who traversed that rough, inaccessible, and remote country with a laudable devotion for the service of the cross; and as a token of investiture, celebrated mass in all the cathedral churches. So that till lately the see of St. David’s owed no subjection to that of Canterbury, as may be seen in the English History of Bede, who says that "Augustine, bishop of the Angles, after the conversion of king Ethelfred and the English people, called together the bishops of Wales on the confines of the West Saxons, as legate of the apostolic see. When the seven bishops {122} appeared, Augustine, sitting in his chair, with Roman pride, did not rise up at their entrance. Observing his haughtiness (after the example of a holy anchorite of their nation), they immediately returned, and treated him and his statutes with contempt, publicly proclaiming that they would not acknowledge him for their archbishop; alleging, that if he now refused to rise up to us, how much more will he hold us in contempt, if we submit to be subject to him?" That there were at that time seven bishops in Wales, and now only four, may be thus accounted for; because perhaps there were formerly more cathedral churches in Wales than there are at present, or the extent of Wales might have been greater. Amongst so many bishops thus deprived of their dignity, Bernard, the first French [i.e. Norman] bishop of St. David’s, alone defended the rights of his church in a public manner; and after many expensive and vexatious appeals to the court of Rome, would not have reclaimed them in vain, if false witnesses had not publicly appeared at the council of Rheims, before pope Eugenius, and testified that he had made profession and submission to the see of Canterbury. Supported by three auxiliaries, the favour and intimacy of king Henry, a time of peace, and consequent plenty, he boldly hazarded the trial of so great a cause, and so confident was he of his just right, that he sometimes caused the cross to be carried before him during his journey through Wales.

Bernard, however commendable in some particulars, was remarkable for his insufferable pride and ambition. For as soon as he became courtier and a creature of the king’s, panting after English riches by means of translation, (a malady under which all the English sent hither seem to labour), he alienated many of the lands of his church without either advantage or profit, and disposed of others so indiscreetly and improvidently, that when ten carucates {123} of land were required for military purposes, he would, with a liberal hand, give twenty or thirty; and of the canonical rites and ordinances which he had miserably and unhappily instituted at St. David’s, he would hardly make use of one, at most only of two or three. With respect to the two sees of Canterbury and St. David’s, I will briefly explain my opinion of their present state. On one side, you will see royal favour, affluence of riches, numerous and opulent suffragan bishops, great abundance of learned men and well skilled in the laws; on the other side, a deficiency of all these things, and a total want of justice; on which account the recovery of its ancient rights will not easily be effected, but by means of those great changes and vicissitudes which kingdoms experience from various and unexpected events.

The spot where the church of St. David’s stands, and was founded in honour of the apostle St. Andrew, is called the Vale of Roses; which ought rather to be named the vale of marble, since it abounds with one, and by no means with the other. The river Alun, a muddy and unproductive rivulet, {124} bounding the churchyard on the northern side, flows under a marble stone, called Lechlavar, which has been polished by continual treading of passengers, and concerning the name, size, and quality of which we have treated in our Vaticinal History. {125} Henry II., on his return from Ireland, is said to have passed over this stone, before he devoutly entered the church of St. Andrew and St. David. Having left the following garrisons in Ireland, namely, Hugh de Lacy (to whom he had given Meath in fee) in Dublin, with twenty knights; Fitz-Stephen and Maurice Fitzgerald, with other twenty; Humphrey de Bohun, Robert Fitz-Bernard, and Hugh de Grainville at Waterford, with forty; and William Fitz-Adelm and Philip de Braose at Wexford, with twenty; on the second day of Easter, the king embarked at sunrise on board a vessel in the outward port of Wexford, and, with a south wind, landed about noon in the harbour of Menevia. Proceeding towards the shrine of St. David, habited like a pilgrim, and leaning on a staff, he met at the white gate a procession of the canons of the church coming forth to receive him with due honour and reverence. As the procession solemnly moved along, a Welsh woman threw herself at the king’s feet, and made a complaint against the bishop of the place, which was explained to the king by an interpreter. The woman, immediate attention not being paid to her petition, with violent gesticulation, and a loud and impertinent voice, exclaimed repeatedly, "Revenge us this day, Lechlavar! revenge us and the nation in this man!" On being chidden and driven away by those who understood the British language, she more vehemently and forcibly vociferated in the like manner, alluding to the vulgar fiction and proverb of Merlin, "That a king of England, and conqueror of Ireland, should be wounded in that country by a man with a red hand, and die upon Lechlavar, on his return through Menevia." This was the name of that stone which serves as a bridge over the river Alun, which divides the cemetery from the northern side of the church. It was a beautiful piece of marble, polished by the feet of passengers, ten feet in length, six in breadth, and one in thickness. Lechlavar signifies in the British language a talking stone. {126} There was an ancient tradition respecting this stone, that at a time when a corpse was carried over it for interment, it broke forth into speech, and by the effort cracked in the middle, which fissure is still visible; and on account of this barbarous and ancient superstition, the corpses are no longer brought over it. The king, who had heard the prophecy, approaching the stone, stopped for a short time at the foot of it, and, looking earnestly at it, boldly passed over; then, turning round, and looking towards the stone, thus indignantly inveighed against the prophet: "Who will hereafter give credit to the lying Merlin?" A person standing by, and observing what had passed, in order to vindicate the injury done to the prophet, replied, with a loud voice, "Thou art not that king by whom Ireland is to be conquered, or of whom Merlin prophesied!" The king then entering the church founded in honour of St. Andrew and St. David, devoutly offered up his prayers, and heard mass performed by a chaplain, whom alone, out of so large a body of priests, Providence seems to have kept fasting till that hour, for this very purpose. Having supped at St. David’s, the king departed for the castle of Haverford, distant about twelve miles. It appears very remarkable to me, that in our days, when David II. presided over the see, the river should have flowed with wine, and that the spring, called Pistyll Dewi, or the PIPE of David, from its flowing through a pipe into the eastern side of the churchyard, should have run with milk. The birds also of that place, called jackdaws, from being so long unmolested by the clergy of the church, were grown so tame and domesticated, as not to be afraid of persons dressed in black. In clear weather the mountains of Ireland are visible from hence, and the passage over the Irish sea may be performed in one short day; on which account William, the son of William the Bastard, and the second of the Norman kings in England, who was called Rufus, and who had penetrated far into Wales, on seeing Ireland from these rocks, is reported to have said, "I will summon hither all the ships of my realm, and with them make a bridge to attack that country." Which speech being related to Murchard, prince of Leinster, he paused awhile, and answered, "Did the king add to this mighty threat, If God please?" and being informed that he had made no mention of God in his speech, rejoicing in such a prognostic, he replied, "Since that man trusts in human, not divine power, I fear not his coming."


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Chicago: Giraldus Cambrensis, "Chapter I of the See of Saint David’s," Itineray of Baldwin in Wales in Itineray of Baldwin in Wales Original Sources, accessed May 29, 2024,

MLA: Cambrensis, Giraldus. "Chapter I of the See of Saint David’s." Itineray of Baldwin in Wales, in Itineray of Baldwin in Wales, Original Sources. 29 May. 2024.

Harvard: Cambrensis, G, 'Chapter I of the See of Saint David’s' in Itineray of Baldwin in Wales. cited in , Itineray of Baldwin in Wales. Original Sources, retrieved 29 May 2024, from