These ruins of the Bishop’s Palace at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, South Wales stand on the site of the monastery of Menevia founded in the 6th century by St. David, patron saint of Wales (500-589 CE). The nearby cathedral (coming up below) was consecrated in 1131, but has undergone many phases of re-building, including major remedial work, first after an earthquake c 1247, and then after the devastation wrought under Cromwell’s Commonwealth of the 1650s. Welsh architect John Nash oversaw extensive repairs in 1793, but his work, proving substandard, made it necessary for the whole cathedral to undergo complete restoration by George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th century. A bit of a mash-up then, architecturally speaking – Gothic and Perpendicular not the least of it – but still an imposingly handsome building. It also hosts a very excellent cafeteria.
St. David’s has long been a place of pilgrimage, papal decree stating in 1123 that two pilgrimages to St. David’s was the equivalent of one to Rome. England’s monarchs from William the Conqueror onwards hot-footed here, which probably accounts for the increasing grandeur of the Bishop’s Palace, still apparent today despite its ruinous state. After confession comfortable lodgings and some fine dining would doubtless be the next royal requirements.
The cathedral’s presence confers city status on the community of St. David’s. This may seem a trifle curious for a place scarcely larger than a village. With a population of less than 2,000, it thus has the distinction of being the United Kingdom’s smallest city, and so by default the loveliest – its peninsula siting bounded by scenic coastlines west, north and south and its hinterland composed of rolling Pembrokeshire farmland. A good place to visit then, although perhaps best done out of season.
P.S. The daffodils on the cusp of opening in the header photo are the national flower of Wales and worn on St. David’s Day on the 1st of March.