St Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland is another example showing that it is absolutely impossible to ban all Christian symbols from the public life without destroying Europe. The European Union and various European governments must reconsider their militant secularism.

From Historic UK union flag of Great Britain is sometimes referred to as the Union Jack and is made up of three overlaid crosses. One of these crosses is the flag of the Patron Saint of Scotland, Saint Andrew, although he was not actually born in Scotland.

Andrew’s home was Copernicum, and like his brother, Simon Peter, he was a fisherman.

Flag of Scottland (St. Andrew's Cross)

Flag of Scottland (St. Andrew’s Cross)

Andrew along with Peter, James and John formed the inner circle of Jesus’ 12 apostles, however he was a disciple of St. John the Baptist prior to becoming a follower of Christ.

Not a great deal is known about his early life other than he is mentioned in the Bible as taking part in the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’. It is not absolutely certain where he preached the Gospel, or where he is buried, but Patras in Achia claims to be the place where he was martyred and crucified on a cross.

Whilst it is not certain where Andrew actually preached – Scythia, Thrace and Asia Minor have all been mentioned – it appears he traveled great distances in order to spread the word, and it may be this which links him with Scotland.

Two versions of events claim this link.

One legend builds upon Andrew’s extensive travels, claiming that he actually came to Scotland and built a church in Fife. This town is now called St Andrews, and the church became a centre for evangelism, and pilgrims came from all over Britain to pray there.

Another ancient legend recalls how it was after the death of Andrew, sometime in the 4th century, that several of his relics where brought to Fife by Rule, a native of Patras.

Whichever legend is closer to the truth we are unlikely to ever unravel, however it is these links that explain why Andrew is now the Patron Saint of Scotland.

Churches were also dedicated to him from early times throughout Italy and France as well as in Anglo Saxon England, where Hexham and Rochester were the earliest of 637 medieval dedications.

St. Andrew has also been remembered down through the ages because of the way he met his terrible death in A.D. 60.

It is said that he believed himself unworthy to be crucified on a cross like that of Christ, and so he met his end on a ‘saltire’, or X-shaped cross (St Andrew’s cross) which became his symbol. His cross, in white on a blue background, remains the proud symbol of Scotland today and forms a central component of the Flag of the Union of Great Britain.

The supposed anniversary of his martyrdom is 30 November, and it is this date that is honoured as his feast day each year.

Today, pilgrims of another sort make the journey from all over the world to the tiny city of St Andrews, internationally recognised as the traditional home of golf.

And here is an explanation how St. Andrew became the Patron Saint of Scottland:


St. Andrew's Cathedral

St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Legend has it that relics of St Andrew were brought to Scotland by St Rule from Patras. What probably happened was that the relics were brought from Rome by St Augustine in 597AD as part of his great mission to bring the Word to the Anglo-Saxons. In 732 they were brought from Hexham to Fife by Bishop Acca, who was seeking asylum with the Pictish King Oengus (Angus). The relics were held at Kirrymont, which was later renamed St Andrews. From this time, the remains of the first-called Apostle became a major focus of European pilgrimage, second only to Compostella. Numbers coming to venerate the relics of the Saint grew quickly.

In the 11th century St Margaret, Queen of Scotland, endowed a ferry service across the river Forth and hostels, at north and south Queensferry, for pilgrims. The relics were initially housed in St Rules Church and eventually in the great medieval Cathedral of St Andrews. Twice a year the relics were carried in procession around the town. Masters and scholars from the colleges, Greyfriars, Blackfriars and Augustinian canons of the metropolitan church and trade guilds all participated. Cathedral and church bells rang and in the evening there were bonfires and fireworks.

Through the dark ages, and medieval period of Scottish history, the Apostle played a major role in the creation and defining of the Scottish Nation. It was commonly believed that the Apostle Andrew had chosen the Scottish people to care for and honour his relics. And so the patron Saint, the saltire flag, the relics and the See of St Andrew became crucial symbols of nationhood.

On 14th June 1559 the interior of St Andrews Cathedral, including the shrine and relics, was destroyed by reformers who had accompanied John Knox to the city.

The three centuries that followed were difficult for Catholicism in Scotland. Catholic worship was outlawed. The traditions were kept alive in a few outlying glens and islands. Catholics in cities and towns had to rely on visiting priests, trained overseas. Priests like the Jesuit martyr St John Ogilvie operated underground and were put to death if discovered.

Recreating the National Shrine

On the restoration of the hierarchy in Scotland in 1878, St Andrews and Edinburgh was made the Metropolitan See of Scotland. In 1879 Archbishop Strain received from the Archbishop of Amalfi a large portion of the shoulder of the Apostle Andrew. It was placed in a silver gilt shrine donated by the Marquess of Bute.

On the feast of St Andrew 1879 the relic was exposed here in the Cathedral and a pontifical High Mass was celebrated. In the evening the relic was carried round the Cathedral in a grand procession, including 72 men from 3 different Army regiments, a long line of schoolchildren and 60 altar boys!

The second relic was given by Pope Paul VI to the newly created Scottish Cardinal Gordon Joseph Gray, in St Peter’s Rome, in 1969, with the words ‘Peter greets his brother Andrew’. Cardinal Gray was the first Scottish Cardinal in four hundred years.

In 1982 both relics were housed in reliquaries designed by Betty Koster and cast by George Mancini and placed in the altar to the north of the High Altar. The chapel, originally dedicated to the Sacred Heart, now serves as the National Shrine to St Andrew, successor to the Shrine destroyed in 1559.

It was here that Pope John Paul II prayed with Cardinal Gray during his visit to the Cathedral in May 1982.

This article was originally published on CP&S in 2012

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4 Responses to St Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland

  1. GC says:

    On 30 November, Pope Francis also expressed greetings to the Patriarch of Constantinople and sent Cardinal Koch to the Phanar with the message.

    After Pope Francis’ inaugural Mass. the Pope addressed Patriarch Bartholomew as “my brother, Andrew”.


  2. kathleen says:

    Wow, that second link you gave is a real revelation GC – thank you! ! I feel I must highlight part of this news from the report: “the powerful symbolic gesture for the cause of Christian unity” (between East and West).

    “The patriarchs of Constantinople are considered the successors of the Apostle Andrew, and the Popes of Rome are considered the successors of the Apostle Peter…”

    So by this gesture, Patriarch Bartholomew’s’ decision to travel to Rome for Pope Francis’ installation, and the greeting from Pope Francis, referring to him as “my brother Andrew“… “Pope Francis, the successor of Peter, in 2013, is expressing the sense of friendship he feels toward the Orthodox, a friendship which reaches the level of fraternal feelings: the two men, Francis and Bartholomew, are as the brothers Peter and Andrew.”

    This is an amazing piece of good news, and perhaps the first step towards a closing of a division that would have long-lasting consequences.


  3. GC says:

    kathleen, many people have more than half an impression that St Andrew is somehow a “protestant saint”. Even most Presbyterian churches over here are “St Andrew’s”.

    However, as apostle to the eastern part of the Roman Empire, he really is very significant as the “first-called of the Apostles” (according to St John’s Gospel) among the Orthodox (he is also patron of Russia) and the Eastern-rite Catholics (such as the Ukrainians). He perhaps occupies for them the place that Peter does in the Churches of both Rome and Antioch. In John’s Gospel it is Andrew who calls Peter to come and hear Jesus.

    Let’s hope “the brothers” patch up any differences in the not too distant future. I think those of us who are of Peter are very hopeful this will happen, although there still appears to be great distrust among many in Andrew’s party.


  4. kathleen says:

    “many people have more than half an impression that St Andrew is somehow a “protestant saint”.”

    Strange that, isn’t it, GC? The original St. Andrew was a faithful follower of Jesus, and the newly formed Church to carry on His Mission in the world, 1.000 years before ‘The Great Division’ of East and West, and over 1.500 years before Protestantism reared its u–y head!

    I know plenty of Catholics called Andrew; in fact I have a first cousin of that name.

    Your final paragraph raises a lamentable fact – that there still is quite a noticeable attitude in many members of ‘Andrew’s party’ against any type of closing of the division between us. Having said that, attitudes are better than they used to be, and the Orthodox Church has been warmly grateful for the substantial help given to them by the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
    Understandably (in my opinion) some of the negative changes in the Liturgy post Vatican II seem to horrify ‘Andrew’s party’! The return of the beautiful Tridentine Mass [thank you dear Pope Emeritus Benedict] in some parishes should help to overcome this, but it still needs to become more widespread.


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