St Andrew's Day: 5 facts you might have known about Scotland's patron saint

The day marks the start of Scotland's winter festivals

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 30 November 2016 07:46 GMT
St Andrew's Day 2016: 5 facts you might not know about Scotland's patron saint

Today, Scotland marks St Andrew’s Day, the feast day of its patron saint, with festivities, parades and dancing across the country.

It also means that today, by law, every building in Scotland must display the Saltire, or St Andrew’s Cross, a flag whose imagery is itself intrinsically linked to the saint (more on that later).

For users across the UK, Google is marking the day with a doodle, which shows a series of landmarks with a Saltire flying beside them. For the curious, the landmarks shown are the Cuillin Hills, Ben Nevis, Broch of Mousa, Isle of Skye, and Loch Lomond.

To kick off the big day, here are five facts you might not have known about St Andrew.

1. St Andrew wasn’t Scottish

The patron saint was born in Bethsaida, in Galilee, which is now Israel. His remains were moved 300 years after his death to Constantinople, now Istanbul, by the Emperor Constantine. While he was generally revered in Scotland from around 1,000 AD, he didn't become its official patron saint until the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

2. He was Jesus' first disciple

Andrew was a fisherman before he and his brother Simon Peter became two of the 12 disciples of Jesus. He was baptised by John the Baptist and was the first disciple of Jesus. In the Greek Orthodox tradition he is known as "Prōtoklētos" (Πρωτόκλητος) - literally "the first-called”.

3. St Andrew is not just the patron saint of Scotland

Greece, Russia, Italy’s Amalfi and Barbados also count St Andrew as their patron saint. He’s also seen as the patron saint of singers, spinsters, maidens, fishmongers, fishermen, women wanting to be mothers, gout and sore throats. St Andrew is also the patron saint of the Order of the Thistle, one of the highest ranks of chivalry in the world, second only to the Order of the Garter.

4. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross

St Andrew was crucified in Greece on 30 November 60AD - hence the date - by order of the Roman governor Aegeas. Legend has it that he asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus. The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.

5. People took pilgrimages to the site of some of his remains

Purported relics of St Andrew, including a tooth, kneecap, arm and finger bone, meant the town of St Andrews became a popular medieval pilgrimage site up until the 16th century - when they were destroyed in the Scottish Reformation. In 1870, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent an apparent piece of the saint's shoulder blade to Scotland, where it has since been stored in St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

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