St Andrews Day
Today is our patron saint’s day! St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. Although 30th November is not a national holiday, there will be various celebrations taking place in Scotland on and around that date, from ceilidhs to fun runs.
The History of St. Andrew’s Day
St. Andrew is believed to have been born around 5AD and to have come from Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. He became a fisherman like his brother Peter, who later became Saint Peter. At first, he was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but later was one of the 12 apostles of Christ. It is thought that he travelled extensively preaching in Scythia, and Thrace, and The Chronicle of Nestor adds that he preached along the Black Sea and the Dnieper River as far as Kyiv, then Novgorod in Russia. He became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania, and Russia as well as Scotland following his death.
A 4th-century account reports Andrew’s death by crucifixion. He is said to have been crucified on an X-shaped cross, or saltire, at his own request as he felt he was not worthy of being crucified on the same type of cross as Christ. Patras (modern Patrai) in Greece claims the death took place there.
St. Jerome records that Andrew’s relics were taken from Patras to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) by the command of the Roman emperor Constantius II in 357 AD. From there, the body was taken to Amalfi, Italy (church of Sant ’Andrea), in 1208, and in the 15th century, the head was taken to Rome (St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City). In September 1964 Pope Paul VI returned Andrew’s head to Patrai as a gesture of goodwill toward the Christians of Greece.
In Scotland, the town of St Andrews lies in Fife and legends prevail regarding the naming of the town. One claims that it is where Andrew came to build a church that pilgrims from all over Britain visited to pray. Another story claims that after Andrew’s death it harboured the relics of St. Andrew, which were brought here by a bishop, St. Rule, from Patras.
How he became Patron Saint of Scotland
How Andrew became Scotland’s patron saint is also steeped in legend. A 16th-century text claims that Oengus II, king of the Picts from 820-834, vowed to make Andrew Scotland’s patron saint after Andrew appeared to him in a vision before a battle with the Angles. Oengus was told to watch for the sign of the cross of Christ in the air. Having seen a cloud formation in the shape of a saltire in the sky, his army went on to win the battle despite being heavily outnumbered, and the Picts agreed to venerate Andrew.
Scotland’s flag, known as the Saltire, is easily recognisable as a white cross on a blue background and the design could symbolize the clouds against the sky as seen in Oegus’s vision. This design has been in use for centuries and in 1385 the Parliament of Scotland decreed that every Scottish and French soldier (fighting against the English under Richard II) “shall have a sign before and behind, namely a white St. Andrew’s Cross”. Whatever the truth, Scotland has long been associated with St Andrew and will continue to remember him each November 30th.
By Vivienne Hamilton
Read more Posts by Vivienne such as: The Bridges of scotland