This post is by Nancy Jardine.
The 30th November is St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland.
- What does that mean for Scots?
- And who was he?
The answer to the first question is simple. It’s an official Bank holiday in Scotland but not for other shopkeepers or, in fact, anyone else! With internet banking and ATM machines operating 24 hours a day, having the banks shut their doors isn’t all that significant now.
People do business as normal, go to school etc but the day reminds Scots that we are a recognised country and have been for many centuries. While a practising teacher, my school always celebrated in some way – by retelling the story of St. Andrew to the pupils; having a competition for the best short story or poem set in Scotland; having a ceilidh for which we had to learn the Scottish country dances over a period of weeks; or making and sharing a typical Scottish meal. The choices vary but popular ones are cock-a-leekie soup; haggis neeps n’ tatties, shortbread, cranachan, or here in the north-east of Scotland sharing a large cauldron of stovies with beetroot and oatcakes.
The second question is harder to answer since it’s shrouded in myth and legend and some around the world would even decry the whole story as fiction. Every year, I uncover another little snippet to add to the story of St. Andrew of Scotland.
As well as being the official Patron Saint of Scotland, I’ve just read about St. Andrew being described as a great candidate for the role of Patron Saint of Social Networking since he was possibly one of the earliest recorded men to be adept at ‘working a crowd’ (this is not intended to be insulting in any way but rather acknowledging great skills). As brother to Peter, they were important disciples of Jesus and Andrew was skilled at bringing strangers to meet Jesus. He was also, it’s claimed, very good at encouraging/ forcing the crowd to share their food.
Now comes one of the big questions- why did a Galilean fisherman become the Patron Saint of Scotland?
I’ve given details in other blog posts before but here’s a potted version:
Greece, Romania, Ukraine, and Cyprus also have him as their Patron Saint but for them is might seem more reasonable since St. Andrew’s country of origin, Israel, is fairly close by. Scotland was considerably further away…yet not inaccessible.
Andrew, as a disciple of Jesus, spread the word of the new Christian religion throughout the East after Jesus’ death. He is said to have founded the first Christian church in Constantinople when it was still named Byzantium, but his problems came when it’s claimed he baptised the wife and brother of a Roman governor named Aegeas. The governor wasn’t happy and had Andrew crucified on a cross in the Greek city of Patras, approximately 60 A.D.
The Roman Emperor Constantine (who converted to Christianity) is later said to have moved the bones of Andrew to Constantinople (Istanbul) around AD 360, an era similar to that of the monk St. Regulus, of Patras (also known as St. Rule) who, according to legends, brought relics of St. Andrew to the ends of the earth – as in the shores of Fife near the present day town of St. Andrews, Scotland. Legend or not, it does seem to have been the norm of the time of the early Christian church to separate the skeletal remains of people like Andrew, sharing the bones around the Christian community as relics to be used in newly built churches across the Roman Empire.
Historical paintings regularly show Andrew crucified on an x shaped cross, the crux decussata. (Latin: crux/cross decussis/ X for the numeral ten shape). I’ve written before about the possible reasons for Andrew’s cross shape being different from that used for common criminals (the type used for Jesus) but whether or not it was an insult to Andrew by the Roman governor Aegeas , the important thing for Scots is that the X shape became the basis for the SALTIRE, the blue and white flag used to symbolise Scotland as a country.
By 1070 A.D. Andrew had gained popularity as a special saint with local connections. The Prior of St. Andrews (named Robert I, but not the king of the country of the time) ordered the building of St. Regulus’ Church in St. Andrews, its 35 metre tall tower intended to house the precious relics. The body of the church is in ruins but the tower still stands today.
Move on to 1320 A.D. and to an extremely important time for Scotland. It was the era of the Declaration of Arbroath when the rulers of Scotland wanted their homeland to be recognised by the current Pope as an independent country. The letter of declaration sent by King Robert I (Robert The Bruce) was for Scotland to be recognised as an independent sovereign state.
As brother to Peter, the great founder of the Christian church, having St. Andrew as a special saint in Scotland was thought at the time to have been a pivotal reason for Pope John XXII to sign the Declaration. The lords of Scotland also claimed that the original inhabitants of Scotland came from Scythia (Black Sea and now Romania and Bulgaria) and were converted to Christianity by St. Andrew. The timing would be a bit off the mark historically but Scottish people who have done recent DNA testing might feel a little smug about parts of it!
By signing the document in 1320, the Pope made Scotland an official country and Robert I its first official King. (NB Kings of Scotland who ruled over similar land masses prior to Robert I were documented, but not recognised in the same official way.
The first time the SALTIRE colours are mentioned was in 1385 when the Acts of Parliament of King Robert II ordered every Scottish soldier to wear a ‘white’ Saltire. In heraldic terms ‘white’ stands for silver, so the earliest crosses were of silver. If the uniform was white then the silver cross was to be stitched first onto a black background, which later morphed into the ubiquitous navy blue of the dark sky in some of the more apocryphal legends of the St. Andrew’s cross, and the one commonly used today.
Another BTW – St. Andrew also keeps busy as the patron saint of fishmongers, fishermen, women wanting to be mothers, singers, spinsters, maidens, sore throats and gout.
What am I doing for the rest of today? Why writing…and making stovies!
Happy St. Andrew’s Day wishes to you!
p.s. This artist is famous as one of the best living artists in Scotland. Hence the link. His Crucifixion of St. Andrew painting is quite stunning. http://www.scottishartpaintings.co.uk/artist-peter-howson.asp
Nancy Jardine loves…you’ve guessed it – history!
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