St Andrew - patron saint of Scotland
SAINT Andrew and his brother Simon Peter were both fishermen before joining Jesus to become disciples and "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).
Legend has it that St Rule, an Irish assistant of St Columba, was told by an angel to remove St Andrew's remains to the "end of the earth" for safekeeping. St Rule did as directed and took a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from the tomb. St Rule was shipwrecked off the east coast of Scotland near a Pictish settlement at what is now St Andrews and where he took up residence.
The rest of the saint's bones remained in Constantinople until they were stolen in around 1210. These remains are now in Amalfi in southern Italy
While the story is speculative, what is a matter of record is that by the mid-8th century a religious centre was founded in the area of St Andrews by either St Rule himself or the Pictish King Ungus (731–761). Another version of how the bones came to Scotland has Acca, Bishop of Hexham, a renowned collector of relics, visiting this religious community and bringing the bones with him in around 732.
The bones were placed in a specially constructed chapel until 1160 when they were removed to the newly built Cathedral of St Andrews. Medieval pilgrims travelled to view the relics here and it soon became established as the religious capital of Scotland.
During the Reformation, on 14 June 1559, the interior of the cathedral and, it is thought, the relics were destroyed by a mob led by the Lords of the Congregation who - fired by the teachings of John Knox - destroyed many Roman Catholic buildings in Scotland.
Scotland was to remain without relics of the saint for many years. Then in 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a small piece of St Andrew's shoulder blade to the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. In 1969 Pope Paul VI gifted more relics of the saint to Scotland with the words "Saint Peter gives you his brother." These can be seen at St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.
St Mary's RC Cathedral
61 York Place
0131 556 1798
From the archive
A saint worth celebrating24 November 2002
Battle of Athelstaneford
St Andrew is the patron saint of Greece, Russia and Scotland. As protector or guardian he is also invoked against gout and a stiff neck.
Efforts have been under way for many years to honour St Andrew with an official public holiday in Scotland on 30 November – a date that evolved in the early years of Christianity as a time for religious reflection. The unofficial holiday has been observed for about 1,000 years.
The present-day goal is to make Scots feel more patriotic and involved in their civic community at a time when people feel increasingly alienated from politics. The Scottish Parliament would be required to write it into law, but many politicians feel there is no need for more public holidays.
(NB: MSPs voted on 28 November 2006 to create a new national holiday on St Andrew's Day. Read the full story here.)
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