The St Andrew’s flag – or the Saltire – is flown all over Scotland. Until recently, the man and his day have been often neglected. However, celebrations for St Andrew’s Day on the 30th November are growing in popularity and it is now a recommended public holiday in Scotland.
Who was St Andrew?
Andrew and his brother (Simon) Peter were fishermen from Bathsaida on the Sea of Galilee. While living in Capernaum they became disciples of John the Baptist, who introduced Andrew to Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew recognised Jesus as the Messiah and became the first Apostle. He then introduced Peter to Jesus, “Come with Me, and I will make you fishers of men”
After the crucifixion of Jesus, Andrew traveled to Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Southern Russia. He became a missionary, telling people about the life Jesus had led. While he was preaching at Patras/Pátrai in Greece he offended the Roman governor (possibly for baptising his wife). He was then tied (not nailed) to an X-shaped cross, where he continued to preach for two days before dying on the 30th of November.
The majority of his bones were taken to the Church of Holy Apostles in Constantinople around 375 AD, when it was the capital of the (Christian) Roman Empire. It was during this time that some of his remains were taken to Scotland. In 1206 they were moved to the Cathedral of St Andrew in Amalfi in Italy by Cardinal Pietro of Capua. However in 1964 they were returned to Patras by Pope Paul VI. They now lie in the Church of Saint Andrew.
At some point during the 730s some of St Andrew’s relics were brought to the Fife coast. This is widely credited to St Rule (Regulus). In the legend, an angel comes to St Rule in a dream, asking him to take the bones of St Andrew to the ends of the earth. He arrived on the Fife coast by boat (possibly shipwrecked) bearing a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap, and some fingers of the Saint. A chapel was then built to house the relics, and the town of St Andrews was founded. There is however little evidence to prove the validity of this version of events.
A more plausible explanation involves Acca, the Bishop of Hexam. He was a renowned relic collector and could have bought them after they arrived in England with St Augustine. When Bishop Acca sought asylum in Scotland in 732 he took the bones with him to Kirrymont, later renamed St Andrews.
The bones were initially stored in St Rule’s Church, but were transferred to the cathedral in the 14th century. Twice a year the relics were carried in procession around the town. Cathedral and church bells rang and in the evening there were bonfires and fireworks.
St Andrews became the religious capital of Scotland and an important place of pilgrimage. Around the middle of the tenth century he became the patron saint of Scotland. In the 11th century, Saint Margaret, Queen Consort to Malcolm the Third, provided a free ferry across the Forth Estuary (now known as North and South Queensferry) and housing for pilgrims to the relics. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath recognised St Andrew as Scotland’s patron saint.
On the 14th of June 1559, John Knox and his followers arrived in the City of St Andrews. They entered the cathedral and proceeded to remove all valuable items. At this point, the relics of St Andrew (along with many other important historical artefacts) were lost. This was done to aid the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. Scotland became a Protestant country in 1560, with the aid of Queen Elizabeth of England.
There are currently two relics of St Andrew in Scotland. They are kept in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, at the National Shrine to St Andrew. The first was given as a gift from the Archbishop of Amalfi to the Archbishop of Strain in 1879, after the restoration of Catholic Emancipation in 1793. The second was given to the newly created Scottish Cardinal (the first in 400 years) Gordon Joseph Gray by Pope Paul VI in 1969.
St Andrew is usually portrayed carrying an X-shaped cross. As legend would have it, St Andrew appeared in a dream to the Pictish King Angus in the 800s. In the dream, St Andrew gave him advice on the forthcoming battle of Athelstaneford against the Northumbrians. When that battle took place, the cross of St Andrew’s appeared in the sky, leading to a Scottish victory. King Angus adopted it as his flag to commemorate that day, but it was not until 1540 that the Saltire was officially adopted in the form we see today. Before that, various forms of the Saltire were used, including on military uniforms from 1385.
The St Andrew’s cross and the Cross of St George were combined to form the Union flag of Great Britain. With the addition of Northern Ireland the final Union Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was formed.
The 30th of November
The 30th of November is a celebration of “everything that is good about Scotland”, with ceilidhs, haggis suppers, and general whisky drinking. In the town of St Andrews, a week long festival is held in celebration. However St Andrew’s day celebrations are a relatively new development. It has always been celebrated by Scots and their descendants living abroad, but a survey by Famous Grouse revealed that only 20% of Scottish residents knew when St Andrew’s Day was (compared with 64% for Burns night). The Scottish Government declared that from 2007 St Andrew’s day would be a public holiday, although not a statutory one. St Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, and Romania.
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