top of page

Life and Times
Saint David Lewis
1616 - 1679

Tad y Tlodion Father of the Poor


Important Notes

Julian verses the Gregorian calendar:

This may not sound very interesting, as we all probably take the calendar for granted, HoweverIf anyone does any research into the past we need to know what calendar was in use for that time, and indeed the country, and to note that calendar in your research documents.

During the life of David Lewis we were using the Julian calendar in Great Britain, and did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until September 1752, so one may ask, what is the problem then! I will come back to this shortly.

Roger Bacon.  (1214 - 1294)

Roger Bacon was one of the most famous Franciscan friars of his time, and made a major contribution to modern day science, and many teachings throughout his life. He realized that the Julian calendar that was established by Julius Caesar in 45 BC was in great error leaving a deficit of 11 minutes per year, which equates to one day lost every 128 years, by now the calendar fell back several days against the true astronomic year.  The friar sent an urgent and formal letter to the Vatican, addressed to Pope Clement IV.

He explained, to the supreme pontiff that there was a surplus of time, that over the centuries had accumulated to 9 days since the Julian calendar came into use, and if allowed to go unchecked this would result in March being in winter, and August in spring.

A further three centuries would pass before the Vatican would concede to the fact that the Julian calendar was indeed, in grave error, and needed to coincide with the true astronomic year. Pope Gregory XIII set up a calendar commission in the 1570s.  The Holy Father appointed a Jesuit mathematician, Christopher Clavius SJ. As head of the commission, with one aim i.e. To bring about a calendar that will be accurate, and fall in-line with the astronomical year.

Christopher Clavius SJ.  (1538 - 1612)

Christopher Clavius SJ. Took up this challenge and worked relentlessly on this heavenly quest.  With much prayer, and reflection on the teachings of the founder of the Society of Jesus, Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  Eventually a conclusion was reached, he realized new rules would have to be incorporated to apply leap years, and by know the Julian calendar was 10 days out of synchronization with the orbit of the earth around the Sun.
Christopher Clavius put forward his proposals to The Holy Father and were accepted, howeverThe most controversial proposal was to cut 10 days from the new calendar, by doing so would restore time, and prevent the seasons moving out of synchronization and eliminating any further problems occurring within a tropical year. The new Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory XIII commenced in Italy October 1582, and adopted by Spain, Poland and Portugal.

This is how the new calendar was initiated, in a light-hearted way:
On the night of Thursday 4th October you go to bed, howeverYou wake up the next day, of course, but now we are using the Gregorian calendar, and not, the Julian calendar that you are so used too! But on awakening, today is not Friday 5th OctoberBut Friday 15th October, i.e. 10 days has vanished from the calendar!

The Gregorian calendar is accurate to within 1 day every 3,236 years.

The credit for bringing about the Gregorian calendar should go to the unsung heros, Roger Bacon the Franciscan Friar; and the Jesuit Priest, Christopher Clavius SJ.

You may recall earlier, that I would come back to the Julian calendar that was in use during the life of David Lewis, within Great Britain.  So I will start to explain a few points and dates that may help you be aware of the importance of accuracy concerning calendars, and research!

Great Britain and America did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until September 1752, some 170 years later than Italy etc.  By now the Julian calendar is 11 days out of synchronization with the earths rotation around the sun.

Father David Lewis was executed at Usk on Wednesday 27th August 1679 (As we all know) and of course the Julian calendar was in use, in Great Britain at that time.  We can never change important dates such as the death of our Blessed Saint, but it is worth mentioning that Wednesday 27th August would not coincide with the Gregorian calendar that we use today. If we had adopted the Gregorian calendar at the time Italy did, the date of Father David Lewis martyrdom would be (at that time) 10 days later!

One last point I would like to bring attention to is the book by Rev. Gareth A Jones. In Thoroughgoing Service The Life of Saint David Lewis. We consider this book to be a definitive reference, and we rely on a great deal, however There are many questions remain unanswered! Such as, what was David Lewis birthday! The book does give a clue, but not the answer. Which brings me back to another problem concerning calendars. David Lewis left Abergavenny on 22nd August 1638 for Rome (Julian calendar). He arrived in Rome on 2nd November 1638. Italy has by now, been using the Gregorian calendar for 56 years. Question: What calendar was used when David Lewis entered The Eternal City, I feel confident that the Gregorian calendar was used, however Some doubt does exist?

Father: Morgan Lewis.
Profession: Headmaster.
School: Henry VIII Grammar School. Town: Abergavenny. County: Monmouthshire.
Religion: Protestant. Between 1636 1638 he was reconciled to the Catholic Faith
Died: 1638.

Mother: Margaret Pritchard. (Her Brother: Father John Pritchard SJ.)

Died: 1638.


Sisters: Mary.

Children in order of birth: (Five Sons and Four Daughters)

David Henry Lewis. 1616.

Name: David Henry Lewis. (The youngest of nine children)
Born: 1616.
Town: Abergavenny.
County: Monmouthshire.
Religion: Protestant. (Later became Catholic)
Educated: Henry VIII Grammar School.
Town: Abergavenny.
County: Monmouthshire.
Assumed Name: Charles Baker. (A common practice in those days of persecution)
Completed his studies for the Priesthood: June 1641. (Receiving Minor Orders)
Ordained to the Priesthood: 20th July1642.
Arrested: Sunday 17th November 1678. Town: Llantarnam, Cwmbran. County: Monmouthshire.
Executed: Wednesday 27th August 1679. Town: Usk. County: Monmouthshire.


David Lewis Birthday is probably between, 7th November 31st December. (See, page: 2, In Thoroughgoing Service The Life Of Saint David Lewis, by Rev. Gareth A Jones.)


The Cwm was purchased: In 1625 by the Jesuit Provincial, Father Richard Blount.


At the age of sixteen David Lewis went to London to study law at the Middle Temple.


David Lewis lost interest with the legal profession, so he took the opportunity to visit Paris in the company of Lord Rivers.  During this time he became a Catholic, being received into the Church by Fr. William Talbot SJ.  Who was Procurator of the mission in Paris.

(David Lewis MAY have been a tutor for the son of Count Savage in Paris)


David Lewis returned from the Continent.


David Mother and Father both died this year: (Reason; fever, possibly plague.)
On the advice, and under the patronage of Fr. Charles Brown. SJ. Who was the Jesuit Superior at that time of the whole district of Wales and adjacent counties, all of which constituted the district of St. Francis Xavier.
David Lewis left Abergavenny for Rome: 22nd August 1638. Financed by Fr. Charles Gwynne.
He arrived in Rome: 2nd November 1638.
David Lewis entered the Venerable English College: 6th November 1638. It was at this time, on entering the Venerable English College, that he assumed the name Charles Baker.


Completed his studies for the Priesthood: June 1641. (Receiving Minor Orders)


Ordained to the Sacred Priesthood: 20th July 1642.


Following the example of his uncle, Father John Prichard (His mother brother) David Lewis decided to join the Society of Jesus, whose annals describe him as Vir prudens et pius. (A devout and prudent man)
Father David Lewis entered the Jesuit novitiate at Sant Andrea in Rome on 19th April 1645.


David Lewis was sent back to Wales, to the Jesuit Mission of St. Francis Xavier at a place called The Cwm (Sometimes written Combe") near Welsh Newton.

The Cwm: Consisting of two farmhouses. Upper Cwm and Lower Cwm.
Town: Llanrothal. (Parish of)
County: Hereford.

Ordnance Survey Grid Reference:
Lower Cwm: SO 4890 1763 (The principal college)
Upper Cwm: SO 4942 1736


The Arrest of Father David Lewis

Sunday Morning 17th November 1678.

John Arnold a Magistrate of Abergavenny issued an order to six of his dragoons (Mounted infantrymen armed with a carbine)

(To be continued)


The first day of the Monmouth Assizes: 28th March 1679.

The Monmouth assizes began on 28th March, and on the following day the 29th March, Father David Lewis was brought to the bar, charged with high treason, having taken Holy Orders in the Church of Rome, and remaining in England contrary to the statute of Elizabeth 27. Fr. David Lewis pleaded not guilty.

The Judge presiding at Monmouth Assizes: Sir Robert Atkins.
Witnesses: Dorothy James and her husband William James.
Rewards: Parliament offered 50 for the arrest of a Priest or Jesuit, and a further, 200 was offered for the arrest of a Jesuit, by the Welsh Magistrate, John Arnold.

Father David Lewis Last Words:

The Last Words Of Father David Lewis
Executed at Usk on Wednesday 27th August 1679

Here is a numerous assembly.  The Great Saviour of the world, save every soul of you all.  I believe you are met here, not only to see a fellow countryman die, but also with the expectation to hear a fellow countryman speakLet none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief; but as a Christian, and, therefore, I am not ashamed.

My religion is the Roman Catholic religion.  In it I have lived above these forty years; in it I now die, and so fixedly I die, that if all the good things in this world were offered me to renounce it, all should not move me one hairs breadth from my Roman Catholic Faith.  A Roman Catholic I am, a Roman Catholic Priest I am, a Roman Catholic priest of the Religious Order called the Society of Jesus I am, and I bless God who first called me, and I bless the hour in which I was first called unto faith and Function.

Please now to observe.  I was condemned for reading Mass, hearing Confessions, administering the Sacraments, anointing the sick, christening, marrying, Preaching.  As for reading the Mass, it was the old, and still is, the accustomed and laudable liturgy of the Holy Church, and all other acts, which are acts of religion tending to the worship of God, and for this dying, I die for religionI die for conscience and religion, and dying upon such good scores, as far as human frailty permits, I die with alacrity, interior and exterior.

He paused, and after forgiving all and seeking forgiveness of all he addressed the Catholics who might be in the Crowd.

Friends fear God, honour your King, be firm in your Faith, avoid mortal sin be frequenting the Sacraments of Holy Church, patiently bear your persecutions and afflictions, forgive your enemies.  Your sufferings are great.  I say be firm in your Faith to the end, yea even to death, then shall you reap unto yourselves celestial treasures in the heavenly Jerusalem, where no thief robbeth, no moth eateth, no rust consumeth.
Then he prayed aloud:

Sovereign Lord God, Eternal Father of Heaven, Creator of All, Conserver of All, sole Author of Grace and Glory, with prostrate heart I adore Thee, and Thee only I adore as God.  The giving of Divine honour to any creature of highest degree, I adore and detest as damnable idolatry.

Incarnate Son of God, true God, Thou has purchased a Church here upon earth with thy Sacred Blood, and planted it with Thy Sacred labours, a Church to continue to the consummation of the world; whatever that Church of thine hath by revelation from Thee, whatever that church of Thine hath taught me, and commanded me to believe, I believe it to an iota.

God, Holy Ghost, who maketh Thy sun to shine upon good and bad, Thy rain to fall on just and unjust, I praise thy Holy Name, and thank thee for the innumerable benefits Thou hast been pleased to bestow and confer upon me, Thy unworthy servant, and years I have now lived on earth.

Holy Trinity, three Persons and One God, from the bottom of my heart, I am sorry that ever I offended Thee, my good God; even to an idle word; yet through Thy mercy, my God and the merits of my Redeemer, I strongly hope for an eternal salvation.

Sweet Jesus, receive my soul.

Executed: Wednesday 27th August 1679.
Town: usk.
County: Monmouthshire.


Venerated: 8th December 1929 by Pope Pius XI.
Beatified: 15th December 1929 by Pope Pius XI.


Canonized: Sunday 25th October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.


The Unveiling and Blessing of a Plaque: In honour of Saint David Lewis, Our Local Martyr at the Old Post Office, Llantarnam. Saturday 17th November 2007. Father David Lewis was arrested at this place on Sunday 17th November 1678 as he was preparing to say Mass.


Friends Of Saint David Lewis: Was founded on Wednesday 13th February 2008 at in The Crying Room, Our Lady of the Angels Church, Old Cwmbran.

bottom of page