St. Andrews is the Patron Saint of Scotland and although widely celebrated every year on November 30th in Scotland every year since the 6th century, St. Andrew’s Day isn’t recognized as a public holiday.
There are about 40 million people throughout the world who claim Scottish descent so, as you can well imagine, there’s a multitude of St. Andrew’s celebrations around the globe. And, would you believe, the world’s first St. Andrew’s Society was formed in Charleston, South Carolina, on November 30th, 1729.
The Scottish flag, a great symbol of national identity, is the cross of St. Andrew, also known as the Saltire (a diagonal cross). Dating back at least to the 12th century, it’s one of the oldest national flags of any country. Although originally a silver colored cross on a blue background, the Scottish flag is now depicted with a heraldic white cross on a blue background.
St. Andrew, who was crucified by the Romans in Petras, southern Greece, was given the choice of being offered as a sacrifice to the gods or, being scourged and crucified. St. Andrew requested to be crucified on a diagonal because, like his brother Peter, he felt himself unworthy to be crucified on the upright cross of Christ. History states that he continued preaching from the cross for three days before he died.
Although the name Andrew has been adopted as Scottish, Saint Andrew, who died around AD 60, was a fisherman in Galilee (now part of Israel), along with his elder brother Simon Peter, founder of the church in Rome. St. Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist before he became a disciple of Christ and is named in the gospels as being among the first four of Jesus’ apostles. St. Andrew’s bones were entombed in Greece and, about 300 years later, were moved by Emperor Constantine to his new capital Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey).
According to legend, a Greek monk, St.Rule, was warned by an angel in a dream that St. Andrew’s remains should be moved to the “ends of the earth”. St. Rule removed a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from St. Andrew’s tomb and transported them as far as he could.
Scotland was considered at the time to be the “ends of the earth” and it was there that St. Rule was shipwrecked with his precious cargo. He came ashore at a Pictish settlement on the East coast of Scotland, which later became St. Andrews. Having no commercial assets St. Andrew’s was considered to be the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland and St. Andrew’s University, established in 1413, is the third oldest university in the English speaking world.
It seems likely that the Saints remains, which were stored in St. Andrew’s Cathedral, were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation. The Scottish cause sermonized by John Knox, George Wishart and others, prevailed over Catholicism and the Saints, relics, decorations of churches, were expunged and Catholicism was replaced with Presbyterianism.
In 1210, St. Andrew’s remains were stolen from Constantinople and now reside in Amalfi, in southern Italy.
When the Roman Catholic faith was re-established in 1879, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a piece of the Saint Andrew’s shoulder bone to Scotland.
Ninety years later, in 1969, when Gordon Gray, Archbishop of Saint Andrew’s and Edinburgh, was named the Roman Catholic leader in Scotland, he was the first Scottish Cardinal to be appointed since the Reformation. Pope Paul VI gave him some additional relics, one of which was part of the scull of St. Andrew with the words, “Saint Peter gives you his brother”. These treasures are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.
St. Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In Germany, the feast day is celebrated as Andreasnacht ( Andrew’s night), in Austria with Andreasgebet (St. Andrew’s prayer), and in Poland as Andrzejki (Andrews).