St Andrew's Day header

November 30th is St. Andrew's Day

November 30th is St. Andrew's Day, celebrated by Scots in many parts of the world and part of a debate in Scotland about whether the day should be a national holiday.

There are many St. Andrew's Societies in places where Scots emigrated to. The St. Andrew's Society in Boston, in the USA, was set up in 1657.

Who is St Andrew?

St Andrew is patron saint of Scotland - and Russia, Greece, Ukraine and Romania (any other takers?)

Who was Andrew

Andrew came from the town of Bethsaida in Galilee and worked as a fisherman in partnership with his brother Simon. Andrew and Simon also had a house at Capharnaum.

Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist - it was John who identified Jesus to Andrew as The Christ, following which Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus and they both became followers.

It was later that Jesus was to call both Andrew and Simon from their fishing to become what we now know as Apostles, "fishers of men", both men being critical to the spread of the Gospel in Europe. Jesus gave Simon the name Cephas, or Peter.

It was Andrew who brought to Jesus the boy with the five barley loaves and two fishes at the feeding of the five thousand. It was Andrew, with Philip, who told Jesus of the gentiles who had come asking if they might see him (John 12:20-22).

There is much more documented about Peter than about Andrew. What we can take from the Scriptural account is that Andrew had foresight and wisdom, was very close to Jesus and was recognised by others as having authority. Andrew is said to have preached the Gospel in what are now Greece, Romania and Ukraine, hence his influence on those countries and in the Orthodox branch of Christianity where Andrew is referred to as "the First Called" (Protocletus) because he was the first Apostle to be summoned by Jesus into His service.

Is said that Andrew was crucified in Greece because of his beliefs, at a place called Patras, on a cross in the form of an X. However, the X-shaped cross played little part in early legends of St. Andrew some of which have Andrew nailed to an olive tree. The cross does not seem to appear in legend until the 14th century..

Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland

It was very important in the early days of Christianity that the bones of saints, and other articles that had been closely associated with them, should be preserved. This helped people to understand that Saints were real people, no matter how extraordinary their lives had been. These objects were known as relics and often the relics of the saints would be split up and parts given to different churches.

One legend says that a man who later became St. Regulus (or Rule) 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.

The relics were placed in a specially constructed chapel. This chapel was replaced by the Cathedral of St. Andrews. The cathedral was started in 1160 and took 158 years to build (the ruins can still be seen today) and St. Andrews became the religious capital of Scotland and a great centre for Medieval pilgrims who came to view the relics.

Another legend 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).

St Andrew's relics disappeared during the Reformation of the Scottish churches. 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 in which the Protestant cause, propounded by Knox, Wishart and others, returned Scotland to Christianity from the idolotary of Roman Catholicism.

The place where these relics were kept within the Cathedral at St. Andrews is now marked by a plaque, amongst the ruins, for visitors to see.

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.

In 1969, Gordon Gray, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland was in Rome to be appointed the first Scottish Cardinal since the Reformation. Pope Paul VI gave him further relics of St. Andrew with the words "Saint Peter gives you his brother". These are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.

One of the first times that Andrew is recognised officially as the patron saint of Scotland was at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. This was a declaration signed by many of the Scottish noblemen, as well as Robert the Bruce, asserting Scotland's independence from England.

The Saltire

Again there are different legends surrounding the use of the Saltire as Scotland's flag.

Some people say that the Pictish King Angus dreamt one night that St. Andrew appeared to him and promised him a great victory. Angus was about to fight a battle with another king from the North of England, and this dream made him believe that the Scots would win. On the day of the battle a white cross appeared in the sky and Angus did win - this is why the flag of Scotland is sky blue with a white cross. The battle was at a place called Athelstaneford in the year 831.

According to this legend, an army of Picts under Angus mac Fergus, High King of Alba, and aided by a contingent of Scots, had been on a punitive raid in Northumbrian territory, but were pursued and then confronted by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under one Athelstan. Defeat seemed almost certain, but after Angus and his men had prayed for deliverance, the appearance in the blue sky above them of a white cloud in the shape of a saltire or St Andrew’s Cross seemed to promise that their prayers had been heeded. Thereupon Angus vowed that if they were victorious that day, St Andrew would forever after be their patron saint. Victory was indeed theirs, Angus remembered his vow, and so Andrew became our patron saint and his cross our flag. The date is believed to have been 832AD.

The battle is commemorated by a monument in the churchyard at Athelstaneford. Attached is a tall flagpole on which a Saltire is flown permanently, even during the hours of darkness when it is floodlit, as a reminder of the flag’s origins.

The other version says 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.

The Saltire became the national flag of Scotland in 1385.

The Cross of St. Andrew also adorns the Union flag of the United Kingdom which incorporates the national flags of Scotland, England and Ireland.

Andrew in Greece

According to ecclesiastical tradition, Andrew began his missionary activity in the Provinces of Vithynia and Pontus on the southern shores of the Black Sea. Later he journeyed to the City of Byzantium and founded the Christian Church there, ordaining the first Bishop of Byzantium, Stachys, who was one of the 70 disciples of the Lord.

In one of his several missionary journeys to Greece, Andrew visited the City of Patras. Through his preaching and the miracles of healing he performed, in the name of Jesus, many persons were converted to Christianity. Among those healed was Maximilla, the wife of the Roman Proconsul, Aegeates. Seeing this miracle of healing, Stratoklis, the highly intellectual brother of the Proconsul, also became a Christian, and Andrew consecrated and enthroned him as the first Bishop of Patras.

Crucifixion of Andrew

These conversions to the Christian Faith by members of his own family infuriated the Proconsul Aegeates, and he decided, with the urging of the idolators who advised him, to crucify Andrew.

Legend reports that the crucifixion was carried out in AD 60 at Patras in Achaia. St Andrew was placed on an X-shaped cross with the body of the Apostle upside down so that he saw neither the earth nor his executioners, but only the sky which he glorified as the heaven in which he would meet his Lord.

Burial at Patras

His body was removed from the cross by Bishop Stratoklis and Maximilla, and buried with all of the honor befitting the Apostle. Soon countless numbers of Christians made their way to Patras to pay reverence to the grave of Andrew, and when Aegeates realized that the man he had put to death was truly a holy man of God his conscience became so tormented that he committed suicide.

Re-burial at Constantinople

In the month of March in the year 357 the Emperor Constantine (son of Constantine The Great) ordered that the body of St. Andrew be removed from Patras and be re-interred in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

With all the magnificence and honor of the Byzantine Empire and the Great Church of Christ at Constantinople, St. Andrew was returned to the City that had first heard the message of Jesus Christ from his lips. Thus he became in death, as well as in life, the founder of the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople.

When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua removed the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain.

The skull of St. Andrew was kept in Patras until the year 1460 when Thomas Paleologos, the last ruler of the Morea brought the skull to Rome. In 1967, under the orders of Pope Paul, the skull was returned to Patras with all of the pomp and dignity of the Papal State.

Order of Saint Andrew
Most Ancient Order of the Thistle

The "Order of Saint Andrew" or the "Most Ancient Order of the Thistle" is an order of Knighthood which is restricted to the King or Queen and sixteen others. It was established by King James VII in 1687.




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