Happy Saint Andrew's Day!

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Today, 30 November, is St Andrew's Day!

Although today Andrew is regarded as a good Scottish name, it originated, along with Scotland's patron saint, in the Holy Land. Saint Andrew (who died circa AD 60) started out in life as a fisherman. His home was at Capernaum, a settlement on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and he was the brother of Simon Peter.

Andrew was actually a disciple of John the Baptist before he became a follower of Christ, but nonetheless, in all four of the Gospels he is listed as being among the first four of Jesus’ apostles. He gets a special mention in the Bible for the part he played in the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21) and also in the matter of the Greeks who wished to meet with Jesus (John 12:20-2).

Despite being such an important figure in the New Testament, scholars are not sure where he preached the Gospel (both Scythia and Epirus in Greece claimed him as their apostle), where he died or even where he was buried. However, the manner of his death is very well-documented.

According to tradition Patras in Achaia (in modern-day Greece) is said to be the place where Andrew was put to death as a martyr. He was reputedly crucified on an X-shaped cross, preaching to the people there for two days before he finally succumbed and died.

From the sixth century, his feast day of 30 November was universally recognised and celebrated. Churches were dedicated to him from early times in Italy, France and Anglo-Saxon England, where the earliest of which was in Rochester, in the county of Kent, the Garden of England.

Like most saints, a number of legends that have grown up about his life and holy work. One of these, regarding a journey to Ethiopia, is told in the Old English poem Andreas. But none of this explains how he came to be the patron saint of Scotland.

He was actually adopted as patron by a Pictish king called Angus, who was supposed to have seen a vision, when an image of the cross appeared in the heavens during a decisive battle. The saint’s relics were brought from Patras all the way to Fife by Saint Regulus, where he stopped at the place that now bears the saint’s name, the church at Kilrymont becoming the cathedral of St Andrews.

You can learn more about Saint Andrew and the Scottish city of St Andrews (along with its world famous university) in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave.


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