|When fixing the date of St. David's birth and death, we are met with difficulties.|
The adjusted Annales_Cambriae have against 603, "David episcopus Moni Iudaeorum," and they couple it with the death of Pope Gregory, which took place in 604. The Annals of Inisfallen give as the date 589, the Chronicon Scottorum, 589, and the Annals of Tighernach 587. If we trust the Life of St. Kentigern, David died whilst that Saint was still in Wales, before 574. The story told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, that Maelgwn Gwynedd ordered the burial of St. David to be carried out with great pomp, may be dismissed. William of Malmesbury gives 546, but this is too early, as 603 is too late. David died on March 1, which that year fell on a Tuesday. The day on which that date coincided with a Tuesday might be in 550, 561, 567, 572, 578, and 589. This last year will agree with the Annals of Inisfallen and Chronicon Scottorum.
To help us in the determination of the true date we must consider the dates of the deaths of the contemporaries of David. Gildas was certainly older than he, and he died in 570; Cadoc about 577; Dyfrig, who was assuredly his senior by some years, died about 577. Finnian of Clonard died in 548, during the raging of the Yellow Plague, and died of it, according to the Annals of the Four Masters. Aidan or Maidoc, the pupil of St. David, certainly some twenty years his junior, died, as we have shown, about 625. Samson, his fellow-student under Illtyd, if we may trust one account, shortly after 557; and Paul of Leon about 560. Senan of Iniscathy, with whom he had entered into a compact of brotherhood, died, as nearly as can be determined, about 568. Brendan, of Clonfert, who visited him, died in 577; Constantine of Domnonia, another visitor, about 598.
We are inclined to take 589 as the date at which David died. Archbishop Usher was certainly wrong in putting the date so early as 544. The date of his birth was about 500, possibly a few years before that. It is hardly credible that it can have been protracted to 601, the date given in the Annales Cambriae,
We have but conjecture, more or less plausible, to guide us towards fixing tentatively the periods in the Life of St. David when he formed his several foundations.
His first, we may suppose, was the Bangor or Henllan on the Teifi, in Ceredigion, granted to him by his father. The Old Bush would come to him from his maternal grandfather. This, as already shown, had been established some time before under Mancen or Maucan, apparently at the instigation of St. Patrick, but on land that pertained to Cynyr of Caer Gawch. There may have been an understanding that it was to be held by a stranger only until one of the founder's family was in the ecclesiastical profession and ready to assume the headship. In a Celtic monastery the rule as to headship was, "The tribe of the patron saint shall get the Church as long as there shall be a person fit to be an abbot of the tribe of the patron saint, even though there should be but a psalm-singer of them, it is he that shall obtain the abbacy," And, "the abbacy shall go to the tribe to whom the land belonged, until a person fit to be an abbot of the patron saint shall be qualified; when he is, the abbacy will be given to him, if he is better than the abbot from the tribe to whom the land belonged and who had taken it. If he be not better, then it is only in his turn that he shall succeed." Only in the absence of any person, a blood-relation to the founder, could the abbacy be held by one not of the tribe, and he had to give securities to surrender the headship when a duly qualified person of the founder's kin appeared to claim it.
Now the Old Bush must have been conceded by Cynyr to Mancen according to Celtic rule, conditionally. It had to be vacated as soon as one of Cynyr 's blood was prepared to become president. Whether Paulinus succeeded Mancen at the Old Bush is not very clear, but probably he did, and David became his pupil there, with the certainty of becoming abbot as soon as he was of age to assume the position, when Paulinus would surrender it to him without question.
In or about 527, when David was abbot, though quite young, Gildas appeared on the scene, and attempted to wrest the place from him, but failed. Finnian of Clonard, who was called in to settle the dispute, gave judgment in David's favour. He could do no other, as already said. David had a hereditary right to the place.
Next we have the Goidels expelled by Urien Rheged from the district in Carmarthen, and David called in to found churches there.
After 540, when appeared the violent Increpatio of Gildas against the Welsh princes, Gower must have been vacated by Cenydd, the son of Gildas, who had been the ecclesiastical head there. It would have been impossible for him to remain on the lands of a chief who had been covered with abuse by his father. Then David slipped in and made his foundations in Gower.
About what time he was in Cornwall, and he and his mother made settlements there, can only be guessed. He passed through Domnonia and planted churches at Thelbridge, Exeter, Ashprington and Dews to we on his way. These foundations were probably made at no late period in his career.
When the Yellow Plague broke out, we hold that he departed to Leon in Brittany, and the period of his foundations there would be between 547 and 551.
On his return we have assumed that he travelled over nearly all south Wales up to the Wye, working along with St. Teilo in restoring the Church, greatly shaken by the losses caused by the pestilence, and that it is to this period that we may attribute so many Dewi churches scattered far and wide, and to the laying the foundations for the extension of the great Diocese of St. David's, or Menevia, of a later period.
It has been supposed that a regular diocese was formed by St. David; but this cannot be admitted. All David did was to plant centres of religious and monastic influence broad- cast over the land. He and Teilo worked together in friendly con- cord, with the same object, and neither had any idea that there would exist at a later time a rivalry between the sees of Menevia and Llandaff relative to their limits, on account of their foundations being so mixed.
We repeat what has been said above, that we offer this scheme as a suggestion, but do not insist upon it, as there are no positive dates on which to go.
We will now give in tabular form a probable chronology of the
life of this venerable Saint:
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