St David and Wales

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Discover symbols of Wales in the Houses of Parliament by clicking on the 'hot spots' below.

St David and Wales

The fire that destroyed the old Houses of Parliament in 1834 created an unprecedented opportunity to erect a purpose-built parliamentary building for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. As a result, much of the decoration relates to the four nations - England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - then governed from Westminster.

Sir Charles Barry and AWN Pugin were responsible for the architecture and decorative arts of the new Palace of Westminster. Their schemes contain many images of the four national patron saints, as well as symbols that relate to the four nations.

A royal commission chaired by Prince Albert oversaw the ‘fine arts’. Like Barry and Pugin, the Fine Arts Commission drew on national emblems and the figures of the patron saints to emphasize the building’s position as the home of the United Kingdom’s legislature.

Later decorative schemes often followed these earlier examples.

This is one of four mosaics depicting the patron saints of Great Britain and Ireland in the Central Lobby of the Palace of Westminster. The scheme was set out by the Fine Arts Commission in 1847: ‘bearing in mind that this Hall is the central point of the whole building...the nationality of the component parts of the United Kingdom should be the idea here illustrated, and would be appropriately expressed by representations of the four Patron Saints’.

St David is shown holding his bishop’s crosier and standing on a hill preaching. On his shoulder sits a dove, his traditional emblem. The two figures beside him symbolize Harmony, with a harp, and Light, carrying a lamp. Below the figures are symbols of Wales. The mosaic was designed by the painter Sir Edward Poynter and made by the Venetian firm Salviati in 1898.