Work is about to begin on a new Pilgrim Path linking Ireland with Wales.The innovative new route will build on the historic connections between the two countries, particularly the friendship in the Early Mediaeval period between St David, patron saint of Wales and St Aidan of Ferns, Co Wexford. In his early years, Aidan went to study under David in Wales. He then returned to Ireland to become Bishop of Ferns, but remained a lifelong friend of the Welsh Saint.
Modelled on the recently re-opened St Declan’s Way in Tipperary and Waterford, the new path will celebrate the relationship between the two saints. It will follow ancient off-road paths along with quiet back roads and is projected to attract up to 8,000 pilgrim walkers by 2027.
The Way of Saints Aidan and David will be the principal legacy of the EU funded Ancient Connections project and is being developed under a partnership between Wexford and Pembrokeshire County Councils and the British Pilgrim Trust. The process of recruiting a full-time Pilgrim Officer to drive forward the Wexford side of the project has already been completed with the recruitment of experienced pilgrim walker Rom Bates to the task of initiating a new pilgrim path for the Southeast.
Chairman of the project implementation group Guy Hayward of the British Pilgrimage Trust said:
“The entire team are so excited about this project, creating an old route as new with all the infrastructure that a modern pilgrim needs. Although we are only in the earliest stage of development, I can already tell that we are going to create something very beautiful together that bridges both sides of the Celtic Sea, and something which so many will enjoy and find meaning through for generations to come”
Local guide and owner of the Wexford Gallivanting Tours, Lorraine O’Dwyer, said: “she was delighted with developing a pilgrim route as part of the Ancient Connections project.” The project will, she believes, “revive long-standing links between communities in the Southeast of Ireland and the Southwest of Wales by drawing on a common Celtic heritage. Wexford, so far, has lost out economically by having no long-distance walking trail; the new pilgrim walking route dedicated to Saints Aidan and Davis should now go a long way to righting this long-standing deficit. I believe this project will be a winner,” concluded Ms O’Dwyer.
Who is Saint David?
Saint David (c. 500 – c. 589) was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids) during the 6th century. He is the patron saint of Wales. Renowned as a teacher and preacher, he founded monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Dumnonia, and Brittany.
St David’s Cathedral stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the Glyn Rhosyn valley of Pembrokeshire. His best-known miracle is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Brefi: the village of Llanddewi Brefi stands on the spot where the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill. A white dove, which became his emblem, was seen settling on his shoulder.
The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks had to pull the plough themselves without draught animals, and must drink only water and eat only bread with salt and herbs. The monks spent their evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed: even to say “my book” was considered an offence. He lived a simple life and practiced asceticism, teaching his followers to refrain from eating meat and drinking beer. His symbol, also the symbol of Wales, is the leek.
Though the exact date of his death is not certain, tradition holds that it was on 1 March, which is the date now marked as Saint David’s Day. The two most common years given for his death are 601 and 589. The monastery is said to have been “filled with angels as Christ received his soul”.
David was buried at St David’s Cathedral at St Davids, Pembrokeshire, where his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages.
Who is St Aidan?
Saint Aidan was an Irish saint who was the first Bishop of Ferns in County Wexford, and is said to have founded nearly thirty churches.
Born in the 6th century on the small island of Inis Breachmhaigh (Inisbrefny, an island in Templeport Lake) at Bawnboy, Co. Cavan. Also known as St Mogue, he spent his youth in Cavan and became known for performing miracles to protect and aid local people.
He left Ireland and studied under St. David in Wales for many years. He was listed in the Welsh triads as one of David’s three most faithful disciples.
He returned to Ireland in 570, landing on the coast of Wexford with hives of honey bees, which he had been told were scarce on the island.
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