THE CULT OF ST. DAVID IN THE MIDDLE AGES By Heather James St. David's was a major place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and this article concentrates on the physical aspects of the cult of the saint.1 Whilst the shrine of St. David and the cathedral church were the goal of the pilgrims' journey, other chapels and venerated places in and around the cathedral close were also objects of devotion. Some of these sites and locations date to the early middle ages, others were newly founded. It is helpful to look at anthropological studies of modem and medieval Catholic pilgrimages to understand why and how the physical aspects of the cult of St. David were organised and developed. It was important for the pilgrimage shrine to be surrounded by a sacred topography of lesser shrines, chapels and holy wells.2 As the cult developed, there was an increased localization of hagiographic incidents and an elaboration, often through folk etymologies, of traditions to fit particular topographic features. The cathedral church, close and town of St. David's Tyddewi were not thus called until the high Middle Ages. The earlier name of the site, Menevia is derived from the Welsh Mynyw, which has a topographical and Irish root and means a thorny bush or brake. Nor did the cult of the historical David necessarily originate in Menevia; Cardiganshire associa- tions are strong. If the antiquary Edward Lhuyd's transcription of the now all but lost inscribed stone at Llanddewi Brefi, Cardiganshire, as: Hic iacit Idnert filus lacobi qui occisus fuit propter predam Sancti David is correct, there may have been a 7th century cult of the saint there.3 And as O'Riain reminds us 'the earlier dossier of the three most important Welsh Saints, David, Cadog and Beuno, is to be found in Irish sources'.4 Asser, the biographer of King Alfred, and bishop of Sherborne, was on his own testimony a kinsman of Nobis, a 9th century bishop of St. David's and was summoned from there to the English court. He elsewhere refers to the monasterium et paruchia Degui all of which suggests that by the 9th century the cult of David was firmly located in Menevia. In the 10th century, verses in the prophetic poem Armes Prydein proclaim David as the chief intercessor of the saints of Wales. Promotion of the saint's cult in the llth and 12th centuries is also tied up with Menevia's claims for metropolitan status. It is against this background that the late 1 1th century