What do you know about Saint Andrew, bar the fact that he is the patron Saint of Scotland? Not much I’ll wager. Truth be told, most Scot’s don’t know much about him either. Although recently there has been an upsurge of interested promoted by the nationalist government’s attempts to makes us Scot’s not Brits. The 30th November is Saint Andrews Day and I thought I’d take the time to inform you of who he supposedly was.
According to the Bible Saint Andrew was one of the fishers on the Sea of Galilee who became a follower of Christ along with his brother Simon Peter, who later became Saint Peter. He is reputed to be one of the founder members of the Christian religion and is believed to be responsible for spreading the religion through Asia Minor and Greece. Along with being the patron Saint of Scotland he is also the patron Saint of Russia, Ukraine and Romania amongst others. But why is he the patron Saint of Scotland?
Like most things in Scottish history, the story of how he became our patron Saint is more legend than fact. Most of Scottish history from those days is. No two accounts agree about what happened. One of the stories that I know of is that the Saint himself came to Scotland and founded the town which bears his name. Personally I find this very unlikely. My reason: the earliest record of the city, certainly that I could find, dates the city from around 570AD. Saint or not, no human can live that long.
Another story has it that Emperor Constantine had Saint Andrew’s remains moved to “the ends of the Earth,” which at that time Scotland certainly was. According to this story they were removed by St. Rule, who was either Greek or Irish depending on the version that you are reading, who then brought them to Scotland where he was shipwrecked. The small settlement where he came ashore later became St. Andrews. But it’s also believed that the Bishop of Hexham brought the relics of the saint to St. Andrews in the 7th century.
One of the stories that I personally found to be even more unlikely than the Christian tales was the legend of Oengus II. Oengus II was King of the Pict’s and Scot’s around 832AD. The story goes that he lead an army against the Angle army of Athelstan. On the eve of the battle he prayed, and promised that if he won the battle then he would make St. Andrew the Patron Saint of Scotland.
When the time came for the battle the cross of Saint Andrew was visible in the clouds. Citing this as divine intervention, Oengus II led his outnumbered forces to victory. My reason for disbelieving this is that the Kingdom of Scot’s didn’t exist then. There were the Pict’s in the North and East, the Gaels in the West and Britons to the South. Scotland or Alba as it was called in antiquity simply didn’t exist.
So back to our original question, why is Saint Andrew the patron Saint of Scotland? Personally I’d like to think that it was a case of “o look England’s got a Saint, we have to have on too.” I think that someone simply thought it was a good idea since every other Christian country had a patron Saint. Why it was Saint Andrew, well that’s up for debate.
There will always be arguments as to why he was chosen: some will believe the traditional Christian stories, whilst others believe the myths of Scottish history. Like many things in Scotland’s history and culture there is no rhythm or reason for such things other than they have always been so. I believe it is simply because of the story that his relics were brought to Scotland either for safe keeping or because they could be. In the end the reason for most Saints being patrons of countries are the stories that are attached to them. The answer is not a satisfactory one, but it’s all we have.