Michael Turnbull: What do we know about St Andrew

He was a dark-skinned traveller and brother of the first Pope, but which tales of St Andrew are myth and which are reality, asks leading author Michael Turnbull

1 Saint Andrew was a networker, in the modern sense - as well as being a fisherman - being the first to bring non-Jews to Jesus and travelling as far as Greece, Bulgaria and the city of Kiev. He could be a perfect patron for social networking websites.

2 He has much stronger historical roots in England than Scotland. There are more than 600 pre-Reformation churches named after Saint Andrew south of the Border, and only a handful of Scottish churches.

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3 Scotland may have adopted Andrew as its patron because it gave political leverage with the Pope in pleading for help against the belligerent English. Saint Andrew was the brother of the first Pope, Saint Peter. Saint Andrew is named in the Declaration of Arbroath in a direct appeal for solidarity to Rome.

4 Rather than the pale figure portrayed in most works of art, Andrew was much darker skinned, having been born in Bethsaida, Palestine, between AD 5 and AD 10, and probably spoke Greek.

5 In one collection of legends, he was portrayed as an all-action hero, once forcing his way through a forest inhabited by wolves, bears and tigers, during his travels in Greece.

6 Andrew was Christ's first disciple and is also the patron saint of Russia and Greece.

7. HE refused to be sacrificed to the Roman gods in favour of being scourged (flogged) and crucified on an X-shaped cross.

8 Even in his last agony on the cross, fixed not by nails but by rope for three days, he is said to have continued preaching.

9 Among many relics connected to the saint are two separate parts of his skull - on display in the St Andrew's Cathedrals, in Patras, Greece, and Amalfi, Italy - and part of a shoulder bone displayed in St Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral, in Edinburgh.

10 A LEGEND claims the saint's bones came to Scotland after an angel appeared to Saint Regulus telling him to take the bones and go west by ship. Wherever they were shipwrecked he should lay the foundations of a church. His ship was driven ashore at Muckross in Fife, into the village of Kilrymont, later St Andrews.

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11 In reality, they are likely to have been brought to St Andrews about 732 AD by Acca, Bishop of Hexham.

12 Around the year 832AD, the Picts under King Angus mac Fergus prepared to battle King Athelstane. Saint Andrew appeared to Angus in a dream and promised victory. During the battle, a saltire cross was seen in the sky, and Athelstane was killed. In gratitude for his victory, Angus gave gifts to the church of Saint Regulus at St Andrews and ordered the Cross of Saint Andrew to be the badge of the Picts and the Scots.

13 This foundation story of what would become Scotland is almost certainly modelled on the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great's victory at the Milvian Bridge, Rome in 312 AD. There he became convinced of the power of Christianity when he saw the symbol of Christ (the Chi Rho - the Greek letters X P, one superimposed on the other, so it looks like a man on a saltire cross) in the rays of the setting sun.

14 The saltire is best described as a dynamic light feature - the effect of the blinding sun shining low in the winter sky.

15 The original colours of Saint Andrew's flag would likely have been sky-colour and silver. The first recorded use of the Saltire in battle was when the Scots were ordered to wear a white cross on a black background.

16 During the 11th century reign of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret, devotion to Saint Andrew became nationwide.

17. SCOTTISH soldiers fighting in the Crusades honoured Saint Andrew as Patron of Christian Knighthood. At the Battle of Bannockburn, in 1314, Scottish soldiers wore the white cross of Saint Andrew on their tunics. William Wallace's battle-cry was "Saint Andrew mot us speed" (May Saint Andrew give us victory).

18 At the Reformation, the great Morbrac (reliquary) in St Andrews which carried the bones of the saint and weighed one third of a ton, was destroyed. The festivities which used to take place on 30 November were banished forever.

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19 Pope Paul VI presented part of his shoulder bone to the Archbishop of St Andrews, Cardinal Gordon Gray, at St Peter's, in Rome, in 1969, with the words: "Peter greets his brother Andrew". Other small relics had already come from Amalfi in 1879.

20 There was even a Saint Andrew coin issued by Robert II and a bawbee Scots halfpenny was marked with his cross.

• Michael Turnbull has just completed The Edinburgh Book of Days, due to be published by The History Press in March