Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Saint Andrew: Provenance of a Patron Saint

Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, and St Andrew’s Day is celebrated by Scots around the world on November 30 each year.

The original Andrew was a fisherman in the Holy Land, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus helping to spread the Christian faith.

He is believed to have been martyred at a place called Patras in Greece, crucified by a Roman governor on an X-shaped cross that was to become the inspiration for the cross that forms the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag.

His bones were entombed until, 300 years later, the Emperor Constantine the Great decreed they should be moved to his new capital city of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul in Turkey.

Legend has it that before Constantine’s orders could be carried out a monk, who was either Greek or Irish and called St Rule or St Regulus, was warned in a dream.

An angel told him to take what bones he could to the “ends of the earth” for safe-keeping. The monk obeyed. He removed a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from Saint Andrew’s tomb and set out on an epic journey that ended when he was shipwrecked off the east coast of Scotland and washed ashore with his precious cargo.

He found himself at a Pictish settlement that was soon to become known as St Andrews.

Another version of the story is that Acca, Bishop of Hexham, who was a reknowned collector of relics, brought the relics to St Andrews in the seventh century. There certainly seems to have been a religious centre at St Andrews at that time, either founded by St Rule 100 years before or by a Pictish King.

Whatever the truth, the relics were placed in a specially constructed chapel that was on the same site as the Cathedral of St Andrews which was built in the eleventh century.

At that time St Andrews was the religious capital of Scotland and a great centre for Medieval pilgrims who came to view the relics.

St Rules Tower still stand today among the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral. It is not known what happened to the relics of St. Andrew which were stored in St Andrews Cathedral, although it is most likely that these were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation when many churches were ransacked and treasures destroyed.

The larger part of St Andrew’s remains were stolen from Constantinople in 1210 and are now to be found in the town Amalfi in Southern Italy.

In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a small piece of the Saint’s shoulder blade to the re-established Roman Catholic community in Scotland. During his visit in 1969, Pope Paul VI gave further relics of St Andrew to Scotland with the words “Saint Peter gives you his brother” and these are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.

The chivalric Order of Saint Andrew, also known as the Most Ancient Order of the Thistle, was created by James VII in 1687 and is an order of Knighthood restricted to the King or Queen and 16 others.

St Andrew is also the patron saint of Russia. It is said he can best be invoked against gout and a stiff neck.

source-Scottish Parliament

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