The Secret Saint

I was in Edinburgh, taking a break, when I remembered the story about the relics of Saint Andrew – the patron saint of Scotland being nearby and thought I might as well take a look.

In the New Testament Gospel according to John, Andrew was initially a disciple of John the Baptist and started to follow Jesus. However most Christians accept the Gospel of Matthew version – that Jesus asked Peter and Andrew to become disciples or apostles and “fishers of men.” According to Luke 6:14 Andrew’s younger brother was Peter – who became the first Pope.

El Greco: St Andrew

Andrew was martyred by crucifixion in Patras (which is now Greece’s third largest city). He was killed by being tied onto a wooden cross form known as “crux decussata,” which is an X-shaped cross or a “saltire.” Today this is commonly referred to as “St. Andrew’s Cross.” Martyrdom leads to sainthood; he laid down his life for his religious beliefs.

St Andrew Cross

They say that you can pray to a saint to “influence”, “intercede” or “persuade” God, rather than bother God directly. This leads to being known as a “Patron Saint”. Andrew is the Patron saint of fishermen – which makes sense as Jesus asked him to be a fisher of men, but – strangely – he is also the patron saint of singers!

The Earthquake fault through California in the USA is named after him – the San Andreas fault.

As his remains were where he was martyred, he is patron saint of the city of Patras. St. Andrew is also patron saint of whole countries – Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Scotland.

In 345 AD, St. Regulus – also known as St. Rule – got two dreams. The first told him to hide Andrew’s bones because Emperor Constantine was going to take them to Constantinople.

The second dream told him to remove some of the bones and take them to the ends of the earth to protect them, and to build a reliquary shrine or found a church. So he set sail with St. Andrew’s a kneecap, an arm bone, a tooth and three fingers, meanwhile the rest were indeed removed to Constantinople by order of Roman emperor Constantius II around 357.

St Rule was shipwrecked in the southern kingdom of Caledonia in Fife at the pictish settlement then called Kilrymont. in the 8th century near where the town of St. Andrew sits today. He was welcomed by the King of the southern kingdom, Onegus (Angus) and given Celtic lands, in the area where he landed, for his church and followers.

In 1070 St Regulus Church was built in Cennrighmonaid (now the the town of St Andrews) in order to house the relics and serve as a landmark for the many pilgrims that would come to the area in the next few centuries. Its main architectural feature is its 33 metre tall tower, and the church itself is now principally known in the town as St Rule’s tower.

St Andrew’s University

Today St Rule is everywhere. The St Rule Trophy attracts women from all over the world and offers the chance to play on the New and Old Courses at St Andrew’s Links.

This church of St. Andrew grew in power and by the middle of the 9th Century (c. 849 AD) it became the new seat of the Church in Alba (Dalriada and Caledonia together).

The birth of Scotland

In 1034 AD, Alba became Scotland and the flag of the new country became the St. Andrews Cross. The power of the Church continued to grow. Pilgrims came from far and wide to view the remains of St. Andrew. This introduced the need for paths and safe routes, hospitality, refreshments, and basically created the foundations of modern Scotland.

Meanwhile the larger part of St. Andrew’s remains were stolen from Constantinople in 1210 and went to Amalfi, southern Italy.

Then, sometime during the Protestant Reformation in the late 1500s, the Church or Priory of St. Andrew was destroyed and all the relics were “lost”.

St Rule’s tower remained – but in ruins.

Scotland – which had been built on having the relics of St Andrew and the power of the church – suddenly had no Catholic church, and no relics to attract pilgrims for 300 years… until, in 1879, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a small piece of St. Andrew’s shoulder blade to Scotland.

In the early 1960s the Church demanded that all the bones of St Andrew – except the Scottish shoulder blade – was to be brought back together in Patras in Greece.

Pope Paul VI

BUt then, in1969, Pope Paul VI gave more pieces to Scotland.

These bones from the remains of St. Andrew are now displayed at the reliquary in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, opposite the Omni shopping centre.

The Relics of Saint Andrew in St Mary’s Cathdral Edinburgh

Scotland is a staunchly Protestant anti-Catholic nation that does not hold a holiday on 30 November, nor does it promote anything to do with pilgrimmages or Catholic saints, all that remains (ironically) is a saltire flag.

Saint Andrew put Scotland on the map, quite literally, and yet a visit to the relics never involves a queue. No-one is interested.

St Mary’s Cathedral – showing where to find the relics of St Andrew

These ancient bones are unknown and unpopular, and I think that this is quite sad. In any other capital European City, this would be listed in guidebooks, and would be marketed and sold as something special.

I feel it’s a shame, really, so I am very glad to have had my modern day my pilgrimmage.

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