Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter and is regarded as the first of the twelve apostles. Like Peter, Andrew was a fisherman from Bethsaida in Galilee. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist who had followed Jesus on John’s recommendation. According to a New Testament account:
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:40-42)
According to tradition, St. Andrew conducted missionary work around the Black Sea. Early apocryphal accounts describing Andrew’s life include the Acts of Andrew, Acts of Andrew and Matthias, and Acts of Peter and Andrew.According to the Acts of Andrew, parts of which are now lost, he was martyred by crucifixion in Patras, Achaia (Greece). His death is generally dated to 60, or perhaps 70, AD. No earlier than the 10th century, St. Andrew’s cross came to be described as X-shaped. Both Catholic and Orthodox churches recognize St. Andrew’s feast day (the traditional day of his martyrdom) on November 30.
Like most important saints, Andrew was not left in his tomb to rest in peace. According to St. Jerome, Andrew’s remains were taken from Patras to Constantinople in the fourth century by order of the Roman emperor Constantine an, according to tradition, a few body parts were taken by St. Rule to Scotland before they made it to Constantinople. These relics were held in St. Andrew’s Cathedral, but were likely destroyed in the Scottish Reformation. In 1208, St. Andrew’s remains were moved from Constantinople to the Church of Sant’ Andrea in Amalfi, Italy. In the 15th century, Andrew’s head was brought to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
In 1879, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent Andrew’s shoulder blade to the reestablished Catholic community in Scotland. In September 1964, Pope Paul VI returned Andrew’s head to Patras as a gesture of goodwill to the Christians in Greece. In 1969, when Gordon Gray was in Rome to be appointed the first Scottish Cardinal since the Reformation, he was given some relics of St. Andrew with the words, “Saint Peter gives you his brother.” These are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.
Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Russia and Scotland, as well as fishermen, singers, unmarried women, and would-be mothers.
There are a variety of explanations as to how St. Andrew came to be associated with Scotland. According to the most traditional tale, when Constantine ordered Andrew’s relics to be moved to Constantinople, an angel appeared to St. Rule (or Regulus) in a dream and told him to take some of the relics to the ends of the earth for safekeeping. He obediently took a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from Andrew’s tomb and sailed north with the remains until he was shipwrecked on the east coast of Scotland. There he established the city of St. Andrew’s, and the relics were placed in a specially constructed chapel.
In 1160, the chapel was replaced by St. Andrew’s Cathedral, which became an important medieval pilgrimmage destination. Much of the cathedral is in ruins today, but “St. Rule’s Tower” is one of the buildings that remains. As noted above, St. Andrew’s relics were probably destroyed during the Scottish Reformation, but a plaque among the ruins of the cathedral shows modern visitors where the relics were kept.
One of the earliest times St. Andrew was recognized as the patron saint of Scotland was at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. Signed by Robert the Bruce and other Scottish noblemen, the Declaration asserted Scotland’s independence from England.
According to legend, however, St. Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland much earlier, in 832 AD. In a story that resembles the famous tale of Emperor Constantine and the Chi Rho, it is said that an army of Scots was facing an English army when the Scottish king prayed to St. Andrew for help. Seeing a cloud in the shape of the saltire (X-shaped) cross against a clear blue sky, the king vowed that if the Scots were victorious, St. Andrew would be made the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots won the battle, the king fulfilled his promise, and the intervention of St. Andrew has been represented on the Scottish flag ever since.