Bishop of St David's

Bishop of St David's

The bishop of Saint David's is the ordinary of the Church in Wales Diocese of St David's.

The succession of bishops stretches back to Saint David who in the 6th century established his seat in what is today the city of St David's in Pembrokeshire, founding St David's Cathedral. The bishop-elect is John Wyn Evans who was chosen on 1st September 2008.

History

The history of the diocese of St David's is traditionally traced to that saint in the latter half of the 6th century Records of the history of the diocese before Norman times are very fragmentary, however, consisting of a few chance references in old chronicles, such as 'Annales Cambriae' and 'Brut y Tywysogion' (Rolls Series).

Originally corresponding with the boundaries of Dyfed (Demetia), St David's eventually comprised all the country south of the River Dyfi and west of the English border, with the exception of the greater part of Glamorganshire, in all some 3,500 square miles.

Claim of Metropolitan Status

The early ecclesiastical organisation of the Welsh church is unclear but scanty references reveal that some form of Archbishopric definitely existed, with multiple bishops under the jurisdiction of a senior see. One of the earliest mentions of the religious community at St David's Cathedral comes in the work of Asser who was trained there. In his "Life of King Alfred" c. 893 Asser clearly describes his kinsman, Nobis, also of St David's, as Archbishop. In the Annales Cambriae, Elfoddw is termed ‘archbishop of the land of Gwynedd’ in his obit, under the year 809. [J. Wyn Evans, ‘David (d. 589/601)’, "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004]

Rhygyfarch's Life of Saint David c. 1090. states Saint David was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, a position confirmed at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi by popular acclaim.

Then, blessed and extolled by the mouth of all, he is with the consent of all the bishops, kings, princes, nobles, and all grades of the whole Britannic race, made archbishop, and his monastery too is declared the metropolis of the whole country, so that whoever ruled it should be accounted archbishop. [Rhygyvarch's "Life of St David". A.W. Wade-Evans's (Ed.) sections, 48, 53]

Rhygyfarch's claim may be dubious history but there can be little doubt he was reflecting a pre-existing tradition. It is unclear when St David's came definitely under the metropolitan jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but about 1115 King Henry I intruded a Norman into the see, Bernard, Bishop of St David's, who prior to his ordination was confirmed by Canterbury, much to the disgust of the Brut y Tywysogyon which noted that Henry I ‘made him bishop in Menevia in contempt of the clerics of the Britons’. Once in place Bernard became convinced that St David's was a Metropolitan archbishopric (and thus of the same status as Canterbury). Bernard in the 1120s claimed metropolitan jurisdiction over Wales and presented his suit unsuccessfully before six successive popes. Pope Eugenius III was giving the case serious consideration, the issue was to be put to the synod summoned to meet at Rheims in March 1148, but the death of Bernard meant the case lapsed. [David Walker, ‘Bernard (d. 1148)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004] The idea of Archbishops in Wales was also reflected in the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth. The claim was afterwards revived in the time of Giraldus Cambrensis who pressed it vigorously. The failure of Gerald's campaign saw the claim lapse but it was revived by Owain Glyndŵr's plan for an independent Welsh Church. The idea was also revived in the reformation with Bishop Richard Davies in the ‘Address to the Welsh nation’ prefixed to the translation into Welsh of the New Testament by him and William Salesbury referred to ‘Archbishop David'. It was only in 1920 that an Archbishop of Wales was restablished.

Further History

The building of the present St David's Cathedral was begun under Bishop Peter de Leia (1176-1203). In the troubled times of the Reformation the former bishop of St David's, William Barlow (1536-1548) was a consecrator of Archbishop Matthew Parker in 1559.

At the Reformation the See ceased to be in communion with Rome, but it continued as a See of the Church of England, and, since disestablishment, of the Church in Wales.

List of the Bishops of the Diocese of Saint David's

The accounts of the earliest incumbents on the list are conflicting.

References

* "Haydn's Book of Dignities (1894) Joseph Haydn/Horace Ockerby, reprinted 1969"
* "Whitaker's Almanack 1883 to 2004 Joseph Whitaker & Sons Ltd/A&C Black, London"
* http://tejones.net/religion/Bishops


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