TO THE MEMORY OF ST ANDREW AND SCOTLAND YET

So goes an old Scottish toast in honour of St Andrew, but how many of us know the story behind our patron saint?
St Andrew was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and he lived and worked as a fisherman in Galilee.  He was the brother of Peter, another of Christ’s disciples. One version of the story suggests that after Christ’s crucifixion, Andrew travelled to Greece to preach Christianity and was crucified for his beliefs in Patras on a cross in the form of an X. Other versions though, suggest Andrew was nailed to an olive tree, not a cross.

In the early days of Christianity the bones of saints, and other articles that had been closely associated with them were preserved, split up and given to different churches. One account suggests that a man who later became St. Regulus (or Ruler) carried the bones of St. Andrew to Scotland. His ship was wrecked on the Fife coast, and the spot at which the ship landed became the site of the town of St. Andrews. A cathedral was built there which was started in 1160 and took 158 years to build (the ruins can still be seen today)and the town became an important site of Christian pilgrimage.

Another version has it that two monks from the North of England went to Rome and brought back the relics of St. Andrew. One of the monks passed the relics on to the reigning king in Scotland at the time – Angus McFergus who became king in 731.

There are also differing accounts surrounding the use of the Saltire as Scotland’s flag. Some say that St Andrew appeared to Angus in a dream and promised a great victory. Then prior to the battle at Athelstaneford in 831 a white cross appeared across the sky and Angus was indeed victorious. This is why the flag of Scotland is sky blue with a white cross.

Another version suggests that Angus was walking with some friends when St. Andrew appeared to him and told him that when he marched against his enemies he would see the white cross. So Angus had banners made for his soldiers to carry to battle with the white cross on them.

St Andrew’s relics disappeared during the Reformation of the Scottish churches. Now there are few relics of Andrew in Scotland although  fragments remain in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.

If you want to find out more the following books are available:

St Andrew and Scotland – Ursula Hall

St Andrew of Scotland – R.K Hannay

The life of Saint Andrew –  Apostle, Saint and Enigma – Stewart Lamont

Saint Andrew for beginners – Rennie McOwan

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