St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. However, like St George, who never set foot in England, St Andrew didn’t ever reach Scotland. Well, not intact in any case!
St Andrew was of course the Galilean fisherman chosen to be Christ’s first disciple. It is said he preached the Gospel around the Black Sea and in Greece and was eventually crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras. Indeed he is also the patron saint of Russia and of Greece.
So how did he become associated with Scotland?
Three hundred years after Andrew’s martyrdom the Roman Emperor Constantine, who was a Christian, ordered that the saint’s bones should be moved from Patras to his new capital city of Constantinople. Before the order was carried out a monk called St Rule (or St Regulus) had a dream in which an angel told him to take what bones of Andrew’s he could to ‘the ends of the earth’ for safe-keeping. St Rule did as he was told and embarked on a sea journey which eventually ended in a shipwreck on the east coast of Scotland. He possibly felt that he had indeed reached the ‘ends of the earth’!
St Rule’s Tower still stands among the ruins of St Andrew’s Cathedral, which was a great centre of Medieval pilgrimage, however the whereabouts of the relics is unknown. They were probably destroyed in the Scottish Reformation. During his visit in 1969, Pope Paul VI gave further unspecified relics of St Andrew to Scotland with the words “St Peter gives you his brother” and these are now displayed in a reliquary in St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.
Whatever the truth of these ancient legends, the Saltire is without doubt based on the cross of Andrew’s crucifixion. However, it was only after Robert the Bruce’s famous victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 that St Andrew was officially named patron saint of Scotland and the Saltire became the national flag of Scotland in 1385.
St Andrew’s day is celebrated more by people of Scottish origin living outside of Scotland, and “St. Andrew’s Societies” flourish. The Saint’s Day is usually a celebration of general Scottishness with traditional food (such as haggis), music (especially bagpipes) and dancing, and of course good Scotch. In Scotland itself Burns night is the more recognised celebration of being Scottish.
Recently however there has been a move to make more of the celebration of St Andrew’s day and a week long festival is planned for the last week of November around the city of St Andrew’s in the Kingdom of Fife.