Saint Andrew [Patron Saint] of Scotland

Saint Andrew - Apostle and Patron Saint of Scotland

Saint Andrew - Apostle and Patron Saint of Scotland

Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, and Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated by Scots around the world on the 30th November. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of Saint Andrew, and this is widely displayed as a symbol of national identity. It is a white diagonal cross or saltire on a dark blue background.

The “Order of Saint Andrew” or the “Most Ancient Order of the Thistle” is an order of Knighthood which is restricted to the King or Queen and sixteen others. It was established by James VII of Scotland in 1687.

Very little is really known about Saint Andrew himself. He was thought to have been a fisherman in Galilee, along with his elder brother Simon Peter (Saint Peter). Both became followers of Jesus Christ.

Saint Andrew is said to have been responsible for spreading the tenets of the Christian religion though Asia Minor and Greece. Tradition suggests that Saint Andrew was crucified by the Romans in Patras, Southern Greece. The diagonal shape of this cross is said to be the basis for the Cross of Saint Andrew which appears on the Scottish Flag.

Saint Andrews bones were entombed, and around 300 years later were moved by Emperor Constantine (the Great) to his new capital Constantinople. Legend suggests that a Greek Monk (although others describe him as an Irish assistant of Saint Columba) called Saint Rule (or Saint Regulus) was warned in a dream that Saint Andrews remains were to be moved and was directed by an angel to take those of the remains which he could to the “ends of the earth” for safe-keeping. Saint Rule dutifully followed these directions, removing a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from Saint Andrew’s tomb and transporting these as far away as he could. Scotland was close to the extremities of the know world at that time and it was here that Saint Rule was shipwrecked with his precious cargo.

Saint Rule is said to have come ashore at a Pictish settlement on the East Coast of Scotland which later became Saint Andrews. Thus, the association of Saint Andrew with Scotland is said to have begun.

Perhaps more likely than the tale of Saint Rule’s journey is that Acca, the Bishop of Hexham, who was a reknown collector of relics, brought the relics of Saint Andrew to Saint Andrews in 733. There certainly seems to have been a religious centre at Saint Andrews at that time, either founded by Saint Rule in the 6th century or by a Pictish King, Ungus, who reigned from 731 – 761.

Whichever tale is true, the relics were placed in a specially constructed chapel. This chapel was replaced by the Cathedral of Saint Andrews in 1160, and Saint Andrews became the religious capital of Scotland and a great centre for Medieval pilgrims who came to view the relics.

There are other legends of how Saint Andrew and his remains became associated with Scotland, but there is little evidence for any of these, including the legend of Saint Rule. The names still exist in Scotland today, including Saint Rules Tower, which remains today amongst the ruins of Saint Andrews Cathedral.

It is not known what happened to the relics of Saint Andrew which were stored in Saint Andrews Cathedral, although it is most likely that these were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation. The Protestant cause, propounded by Knox, Wishart and others, won out over Roman Catholism during the Reformation and the “idolatry of catholism”, that is the Saints, relics, decoration of churches, were expunged during the process of converting the Roman Catholic churches of Scotland to the harsh simplicity of Knox’s brand of Calvanism.

The place where these relics were kept within the Cathedral at Saint Andrews is now marked by a plaque, amongst the ruins, for visitors to see.