When the pagan Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries, many British Christians sought refuge in the hill country of Wales. There they developed a style of Christian life devoted to learning, asceticism, and missionary fervor. Since there were no cities, the centres of culture were the monasteries, and most abbots were bishops as well. Dewi (David in English) was the founder, abbot, and bishop of the monastery of Mynyw (Menevia in English) in Pembrokeshire. He was responsible for much of the spread of Christianity in Wales, and his monastery was sought out by many scholars from Ireland and elsewhere. He is commonly accounted the patron saint of Wales.
It is claimed that David lived for over 100 years, and that he died on 1 March (now St David’s Day), probably in 589. The monastery is said to have been “filled with angels as Christ received his soul.” His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. The Welsh Life of St David gives these as: “Bydwch lawen a chedwch ych ffyd a’ch cret, a gwnewch y petheu bychein a glywyssawch ac a welsawch gennyf i. A mynheu a gerdaf y fford yd aeth an tadeu idi“, which translates as, “Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.” “Do ye the little things in life” (“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd“) is today a very well known phrase in Welsh. David was buried at St David’s Cathedral at St David’s, Pembrokeshire, where his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages.
For many centuries the Church in Wales had closer ties with the Celtic Churches in Scotland, Ireland, and Brittany than with the Church in Anglo-Saxon England. However all of Wales came under English control in about 1300, and the Church in Wales was placed under the jurisdiction of Canterbury. In 1920 the Church in Wales (Eglwys yng Nghymru) became an independent church within the Anglican Communion. It is bilingual and active in the preservation of the Welsh language and culture.