St. Non's Chapel, St Davids
The site identified as the Chapel of St. Non, mother of the Celtic saint Dewi (David), is picturesquely located in a field above St. Non's Bay, on the outskirts of St Davids in Wales. This is traditionally believed to be the site at which Non gave birth to David around 500 AD.
History of St. Non's Chapel
The ruins identified as the Chapel of St. Non, mother of St. David, are picturesquely located in a field above St. Non's Bay, on the outskirts of the small city of St Davids. This is traditionally believed to be the site at which Non gave birth to David around 500 AD. Legend also has it that at the moment of the saint's birth, there was a great thunderstorm and a well sprung up nearby. That site, known as St. Non's Well, is marked by a simple arch and small shrine.
It may be that Non's similarity to the word "nun" led to confusion between the name of a male companion of David and his mother, and to the invention or adaption of the unedifying story of the circumstances of his conception. Similar stories are told of other Welsh saints.
The remains of the chapel provide no clue as to its date or function, since no architectural detail survives. Unlike the majority of Christian buildings, the structure is aligned north and south, probably due to the steep fall in the ground.
The ruins are probably the platform on which the building was constructed. The site has undergone many changes since the medieval period, when it was considered the "chief and principal" of the many pilgrimage chapels scattered around the parish of St. Davids.
After the chapel passed out of use at the Reformation, it appears to have been converted into a dwelling-house, which was itself in ruins by the mid-19th century. In the late 16th century, the site was a leek garden; in the last century the remains of the chapel were piled with stones gathered from the surrounding field.
This later fate was a far cry from its heyday in the early 16th century when offerings from it and the other pilgrimage chapels were brought every Saturday to the cathedral chapter house and divided among the canons "by the dishful."
The site was conserved in the 1950s, and is now maintained by CADW (Welsh Heritage).
What to See at St. Non's Chapel
Although not much remains of the ancient chapel, this site is well worth seeing for its simple beauty and spectacular location. Signs lead here from the center town. A Wales Heritage sign marks the chapel and visitors are free to wander into the site anytime.
In the southeast corner of the chapel ruins stands a stone slab inscribed with a simple Latin ring-cross. This dates from between the 7th and 9th centuries. It was once built into the walls, but may not have been originally associated with the chapel.
St. Non's Well, said to have healing properties, is just a few steps away.
Quick Facts on St. Non's Chapel
|Names:||Capel Non · St. Non's Chapel|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||51.872192° N, 5.268807° W|
|Address:||St Davids, Wales|
|Lodging:||View hotels near St. Non's Chapel|
- Personal visit (February 11, 2006).
- J. Wyn Evans and Rick Turner, St Davids Bishop's Palace and St. Non's Chapel, 3rd ed. (CADW, 2005).
- Photos of St. Non's Chapel - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of St. Non's Chapel, St Davids
Below is a location map and aerial view of St. Non's Chapel. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.