Just who is St Andrew?

Everyone knows that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. But you may not be aware that up in heaven, Scotland, Wales and England are equally loved and watched over by their own patron saints.

The Patron saint of Scotland is St Andrew, who has been protecting the Scots ever since his relics were brought to the country circa 733. On 30th November, Scots all over the world will be putting on their kilts, dancing reels and feasting on haggis and whisky. St Andrew, the brother of St Peter, spent most of his life spreading the gospel in Greece and Asia Minor. He was crucified by the Romans on the Greek island of Patras, and his bones were brought to Constantinople by the Christian emperor, Constantine. Legend has it that a few centuries later, another saint, St Rule, had a dream that told him to take St Andrew's remains, "to the ends of the earth." St Rule's response - logical or not - was to take the bones to Scotland. The present Cathedral of St Andrew was originally built to house these sacred relics.

Actually, St Rule was only able to get hold of some of Andrew's remains - namely, a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers. The rest of Andrew's relics were stolen from Constantinople by Crusaders in 1210, who took them to the Southern Italian city of Amalfi. But St Andrew must have had an unusually large number of body parts, because it turns out that still more of his bones ended up in Rome. Pope Paul VI gave these as a gift to Scotland when he paid a visit to the country in 1969.

St Andrew's day is celebrated, like all good festivals, by eating and drinking. In the past Scottish men would set traps for rabbits and squirrels, an event which they called "going Sanct-Andraing." On the day itself they would bring the meat home, cook a great feast and, of course, bring out the bagpipes.

During the Scottish reformation in the 16th century, when Scotland became Calvinist, the idolatry of St Andrew was abandoned for several centuries. Nowadays, luckily, the growth of the tourist industry and interest in folk culture has meant that the Scots have once more started celebrating 30th November. At long last, St Andrew is making a comeback!

Hilary Davies