St Non’s Chapel and Holy Well
St Non's Chapel and Holy Well is a very special place in St Davids and an important part of its spiritual heritage. Situated on a stunning cliff top, it is widely believed to have been the birthplace of St David, Patron Saint of Wales.
St Non lived in a house on the site of the ruins we see today. This is said to have been where St David was born in 500 AD. A small medieval chapel was later built over the site of St Non’s house, the ruins of which still stand in a field above the Pembrokeshire coastal path. Most notably, in the midst of the ruined walls of St Non’s Chapel, a 7 – 9th Century creed stone stands alone, inscribed with a Latin Ring Cross, which is recognised as the Cross of St Non.
The Chapel is said to have been built within a Neolithic stone circle and it is interesting to note that St Non’s Chapel was built in a north to south direction, rather than east to west, which is the more traditional orientation for religious buildings. In medieval times, the Chapel was one of the sites most visited by pilgrims.
The Holy Well of St Non is a short distance away, at the top entrance to the field. The Holy Well is regarded as one of the most sacred wells in Wales, its waters having miraculous healing powers. According to tradition, the Holy Well sprang up at the time of St David’s birth. In 1951 the Holy Well was restored and rededicated by a religious institute called the Passionist Fathers, with a shrine to the Virgin Mary placed opposite.
The newer Chapel of St Non stands nearby, just in front of the Retreat House. This was built in 1934 by Cecil Morgan–Griffiths for his family to use, as the nearest Catholic Church was so far away. It was built using stone reclaimed from the ruins of local pre-reformation churches. It is the most westerly chapel in Wales and is the smallest, measuring just 25 foot by 12 foot. It has a unique beauty and is filled with light from the wonderful stained glass windows. The location overlooking the sea is outstanding. A bench outside allows you to sit and reflect, whist admiring the incredible view. A favorite time to visit, is around St David’s Day, March 1st, when the daffodils are in bloom and fill the little chapel with their colourful presence and special symbology of Wales.
St Non’s Retreat Centre sits just behind the Chapel. The Passionist Fathers own the property, which is occupied and managed by the Sisters of Mercy, offering a place of sanctuary and reflection.
St Non’s Chapel can be reached directly from St Davids or via the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Photography © 2018 Chris Gill Jones