Starting at Canterbury
Cathedral, the old pilgrimage road to St David's Peninsula goes
from the English Channel to St. David's Cathedral and the Presceli
mountains ( Pembrokeshire, Wales ).
Visiting on its way
Glastonbury Tower and Stonehenge, this wonderful programme will introduce you to the megalithic , Keltic and
medieval powerplaces of Welsh Christendom , investigating the traces
of the Arthurian legends and refuges of the Celtic saints of the
~ OPTION ONE (14
Day 1 :
- for participant from USA :
Flight from USA
to UK , arrival in London Heathrow airport, transfer by minibus to
the medieval town of Tenby ( for USA details, pls see your registration
- for participants from Europe :
Bruxelles, then transfer from Bruxelles Midi with Eurostar Express
(Tunnel) to Folkestone~London, or by ferryboat from Calais (Fr) or Oostend (B) to Dover (UK), or
by Eurolines coach to Dover/Folkestone (UK) ( for EURO details,
pls contact us ).
Then, as per Option chosen, drive from Dover or
Folkestone by coach to Canterbury City, introduction to the Tour and
Pilgrimage Itinerary and Guides, visit of Canterbury
Bed and Breakfast in
a guesthouse in Dover seafront, rest and meeting.
Day 2: arrival in London Heathrow airport,
transfer by minibus to the medieval town of Tenby (Pembrokeshire,
South Wales), old fishing harbour with a spectacular view across the
Carmathen Bay and towards Caldey Island. Pembrokeshire is a unique breathtaking 200 miles
Atlantic coastline, in a countryside providing a contrasting idyllic
rural setting , full of Welsh mysteries and Celtic
Tenby beach &
town / Wales
Tenby is a small town
historically known as " Dinbych y Pysgod", meaning in Welsh the
"Little Fortress of Fish". The old city is lined with buildings
dating from the late Middle Ages and the Tudor Period. It has
spacious golden beaches.
presentation of the Keltic and early Christian sites visited by the
tour, first investigating Arthurian legends and Celtic saints and
the medieval period. First lecture by Dewi Bowen (landscape of
Pembrokeshire from Cambrian epochs upto the Iron Age) and Eric Talbot
(Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Glasgow University) from the
Iron Age upto the Medieval time.
Day 03: morning guided visit of Tenby
medieval town, its harbour, castle, old Tudor House and its
prehistoric cave. Afternoon transfer by ferryboat to the Caldey
Island Cistercian Order's monastery (12th Century), lecture by
Father Peter or Father Douglas on the history of the early
Christendom and Cistercians monasteries in Wales. Evening lecture
from John Sharkey, author of " Celtic Mysteries" (Thames and Hudson,
London ) on the ancient Celtic and medieval pilgrimage
The Celtic cross
represents the ancient symbol of religious culture found throughout
Wales, and prevalent in the older churches and graveyards. The old
pilgrims route via the estuaries Towy and Taf to St Davids. Along
the way Hen Gapel in Llanybri represents one of the oldest religious
sites in the district dating back to Bronze Age when it was a
sacrificial place. Llandeilo Abercowin would have been a stopping
place for pilgrims along the Taf estuary.
The river flows like a lifeblood through the design, important for
sustaining life. The fish symbolise Christianity and food. Purple is
used for a royal connection to the throne through Llewelyn Prince of
Wales. The arrows represent the spread of Christianity North, South,
East and West. Embroidered by: Marilyn Riggs and Brenda Rooke
Saint of Wales, St Davids
Day 04: day excursion by mini-bus and visit
the south-eastern part of Wales,
where lies the St. Davids' Peninsula, land of ancient pilgrimage, beauty and
peace. This granite ledge of land jutting into the Atlantic, is an
area of sanctity dotted with Neolithic tombs, Bronze Age stones,
wells of healing and tiny chapels having their roots in the saints
of Celtic Christendom. King Arthur landed on St. Davids'
It is believed that St. David was born to his mother, St. Non not far
from the town of St. Davids. Legend states that St. Non used supported
herself on a nearby stone during the birthing of her son David.
Afterwards, imprints of her fingers remained on the stone.
Additionally, a well sprang forth from the spot where David was born,
and runs still today possessing healing, sanctifying powers according
to centuries of pilgrim testimony.
Today, the holy well can be visited and
the birthing stone can be viewed. One can even place his or her
fingers into the ancient imprints of St. Non.
In the town of St. David's, a Norman cathedral sits on the site, that
David's original monastic settlement occupied. The cathedral houses
the relics of St. David and many other artifacts of Christianity and
local history. Edmund Tudor, grandfather of Henry VIII is buried in
this twelfth century cathedral.
St. David's was the
largest and most important diocese in medieval Wales. An episcopal
residence was built near the cathedral and eventually expanding by
Bishop Henry Gower in the early 14th century. This became known as The
Bishop's Palace. It was an imposing structure, suitable for receiving
high-ranking guests and dignitaries.
After Gower's death, the palace began to fall into disrepair.
Eventually, the palace became obsolete, with the chief episcopal
residence moving to Carmarthan, and it fell into ruin.
The ruins of Bishop's Palace quietly
haunt the grounds near the cathedral.
"To enter the land
of David is to enter in the 'David Stream', that process of
consciousness, which connects with the presence of otherness."
St. David's with its majestic Norman cathedral, its ruined Bishop's
Palace, and its nearby holy wells, standing stones and high crosses is
a testimony to continuing presence of the Divine - spanning the ages -
always constant. This site, which predates all the other great
monastic sites in Britain including Iona, Lindisfarne and Canterbury,
has drawn holy men and women to it - and sanctified them connecting
them to that which is on the other side - in the eternal world.
Behind the Gumfreston Church, bird
songs, shimmering hawthorne leaves and the gentle sounds of running
water lead to three "eternal" springs thought by the earliest
Christians to be a holy well.
At Easter in
medieval times, pilgrims came to holy wells to drink the water and
pray to be healed. They often brought a bent iron pin as an
offering. Iron was regarded as a wondrous thing by earlier Pagan
Celts, hence its value as a gift to the gods. This belief in the
magical, mysterious properties of iron lingered long into the
Christian age and iron was often used to ward off evil.
Pagan Celts viewed a whole multitude of
gods and goddesses as kin, and strengthened ties with them by
offering gifts. As family, they were presumed to give gifts in return.
The otherworld overlapped ours, seeping especially through its waters,
so wells and springs were entrances to the underworld, where Celts,
and subsequently, Christians, would leave offerings.
While the early Celtic Christians
incorporated aspects of nature mysticism and religious practices that
preceded them, Pagan beliefs and practices were not peacefully adopted
by all Christians. The Reformation aimed at ripping out every lively
Pagan root. Inside the gray stone church, a riot of colorful paintings
meant to instruct illiterate people in the stories of the faith were
plastered over by Puritans.
We leave the Gumfreston Church and
come to the Carew Cross, one of the finest 6th century stone
crosses in Wales, and a stop on the pilgrims' route. The "endless
knot" pattern carved along its slightly crooked length is the
symbol of eternity attributed by some to the Picts of ancient
Britain. Beyond is the village of Llawhaden, and the Road of Song,
where pilgrims walking from the east would first glimpse the
church tower and start to sing.
Two pilgrimages to St.
David Cathedral equalled one to Rome in the Middle Ages. The
glorious cathedral stands where St. David build his original church
and monastery . Behind the High Altar are the relics of St. David
and St. Justinian. Adjacent to the cathedral are the magnificient
ruins of the Bishop's Palace, where they lived in great pomp and
state. On the way, exploration of ancient stones and the old Pilgrim
sites of Ancient Britain. Participation of Norna Rees on St. Davids
St David of Wales
or Dewi Sant, was a saint of the Celtic Church. He was the son of
Sandde, Prince of Powys, and Non, daughter of a Chieftain of Menevia
whose lands included the peninsula on which the little cathedral
town of St David's now stands. St David is thought to have been born
near the present town of St David's. The ruins of a small chapel
dedicated to his mother, Non, may be seen near St. David's Cathedral
David became the Abbot of St David's and died on 1st March 589. An
account of his life was written towards the end of the 11th century
by Rhygyfarch, a monk at Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyth. Many
miracles were attributed to him. One miracle often recounted is that
once when Dewi was preaching to a crowd at Llandewi Brefi those on
the outer edges could not hear, so he spread a handkerchief on the
ground, and stood on it to preach, whereupon the ground rose up
beneath him, and all could hear.
He was buried in what is today St David's Cathedral in
Pembrokeshire. His holiness was such that medieval pilgrims equated
two pilgrimages to St David's were worth one pilgrimage to Rome - a
great saving in journeying at that time! Fifty churches in south
Wales alone bear his name.
Evening lecture on
the possible historical and modern links between the early Buddhist
missionaries (Ashoka Period), the Celts of Ireland, as well as the
current activities on Holy Island , given by a member of the Samye-
Ling Tibetan Buddhist Community.
Old Bishop Palace, St Davids Cathedral
Day 05: All day freetime or an optional "
Thousand Island " boat- excursion (2 hours) to Ramsey, Skokholm and
Skomer islands and their Natural Wildlife Reserve. This boat
excursion will be a fulfilling experience of the myriad of natural
wealth and beauty of the Pembrokeshire Atlantic coast and will
enable a close encounter with colonies of seals, dolphins, seabirds
niched along sea-caves and sea-cliffs. Evening 2nd lecture by Dewi Bowen on the Mesolithic
and Neolithic transition.
Day 06: Morning excursion day devoted to
Celtic Arts and Handicraft Workshops in Fishguard and Newport. Visit
of the Celtic Iron Age Village at Castell Henllys. Afternoon
presentation of publication and documentation on the Celtic
Heritage, at the Catell Henllys. Early evening lecture by a Member
of the Bards and Druid Community of Wales on the Celtic tradition
and shamanism ….
Day 07: Day free (...).
Day 08: - early morning talk on the Mesolithic and
Neolithic archeological sites of Pembrokeshire, which will be
visited later in the day. This day constitutes the core of the
presentation of stones, wells, graveyards and chambers which will be
discussed in the evening lecture.
Evening lecture on "Phenomenology of Landscape" and
methodology for increasing the empathy with the sacred sites of the
Celtic tradition, as a preparation to the next day excursion and
exercises. Lecture given by Mr. Christopher Tilley , author of the "
Phenomenology of Landscape " (published by BERG, Oxford , Providence
Day 09: Interactive day excursion to the
sacred Celtic sites. Experientials in phenomenology of landscape,
the resulting empathy and intuition with the sites, their sacred
geometry and astronomy. The day follows the ancient pilgrimage route
linking the heart of Pembrokeshire to St. Davids. Evening optional / invitation to a typical Welsh
evening with food, drinks and Celtic music.
Day 10: Day excursion to the prehistoric
landscape of Skomer Island. Guided visit of the site by the Warden
of Skomer Island. Interactive exercises. Evening preparation of a
Celtic Shamanic Purification or the Solar Solstice Ceremony.
Day 11: Celtic Shamanic Purification or Solar
Solstice Day Ceremony , visit to Stonehenge and Glastonbury , evening
back to Tenby.
Day 12: One day excursion and visit of the
Tintern Abbey , and the castle of Caerffilli. - evening lecture on
The Arthurian Grail and Politics , given by Brian Davis (at
Pontypridd Historical and Cultural Centre),
Day 13: free day evening special Welsh
Entertainment & Celtic Music (party).
Day 14: transfer to London , then Heathrow or
Dover , departure back to USA or Europe.