St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, whose saint’s day is celebrated annually on 30 November.
He is said to have travelled to Greece to preach Christianity, where he was crucified by the Romans at Patras on an X-shaped cross. In the 13th century his remains were moved to Amalfi in southern Italy where they are kept to this day.
Legend has it that a Greek monk known as St Rule or St Regulus was ordered in a vision to take a few relics of Andrew to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping. He set off on a sea journey to eventually come ashore on the coast of Fife at a settlement which is now the modern town of St Andrews.
In 832 AD Andrew is said to have appeared in a vision to a Pictish king the night before a battle against the Northumbrians in what is now the village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian. On the day of the battle a Saltire, an X-shaped cross, appeared in the sky above the battlefield and the Picts were victorious.
At the Battle of Bannockburn, near Stirling in 1314, the Scottish soldiers had worn the white cross of St Andrew on their tunics and before the battle began they knelt in prayer, invoking his protection.
Four years later Robert the Bruce, at the dedication of St Andrews Cathedral on 5 July 1318, placed a parchment at the High Altar expressing nation’s thanks to the saint. Andrew was first recognised as an official patron saint of Scotland in 1320 at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath an appeal to the Pope by Scottish noblemen asserting Scotland’s independence from England.
William Wallace’s battle-cry was “St. Andrew mot us speed” (May Saint Andrew support us). Prior to the disastrous Scottish defeat at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, a great many Saint Andrew’s crosses were made at the Boroughmuir in Edinburgh. Mary, Queen of Scots’ forces carried the saltire at the battle of Carberry; There was even a Saint Andrew coin issued by Robert II and a bawbee Scots halfpenny marked with the same cross.
In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi gifted Andrew’s shoulder blade to St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. Pope Paul VI donated further relics in 1969.
St Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece and Russia.
St Andrew’s Day falls on 30 November in Scotland and is a bank holiday, with many organisations enjoying a day off and events taking place across the country to celebrate St Andrews Day in a patriotic fashion. The last few years have seen many more events taking place across the country with a number of Scotland’s historic attractions allowing free admission for the day.