Saint Andrew and the Flag
St Andrew the Patron of Scotland
People often ask about the Scottish flag or ‘saltire’ which is also seen within the flag of Great Britain; the Union Jack. The Union Jack dates back to the union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. The flag combines aspects of three national flags: the red cross of St George of the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St Andrew for Scotland (the two were united in the first Union Flag in 1606), and the red saltire of St Patrick to represent Ireland.
St Andrew (whose name in Greek means ‘manly’, ‘masculine’) was born around 5-10 A.D. in a Palestinian port. He was a fisherman like his father and brother. Later, on the banks of the Jordan, Andrew met John the Baptist; he was the first disciple and the first apostle. Andrew preached in Scythia, along the Black Sea and the Dnieper River as far as Kiev, and from there he travelled to Novgorod. Hence, he became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia.
In 62 A.D. the pagan governor of the Greek city Patras seeing Andrew’s preaching, ordered his arrest and crucifixion. However, it is believed that Andrew requested to be crucified on a diagonal cross as he felt unworthy to die on the same type of cross as Jesus. He remained on the cross for two days still preaching Christianity! Remnants of that cross remain in the St Andrew's Cathedral Patras in Greece. Hundreds of years after St Andrew’s death, his own remains were moved to
Constantinople and then, in the 13th century, to Amalfi in southern Italy where they are kept to this day.
This diagonal cross is now seen on the Scottish flag. Many legends explain in different ways how the saint became the patron of Scotland.
The first legend tells that a Greek monk known as St Rule (or St Regulus in Latin) had a vision of an angel and was told to hide some of the relics of St Andrew until further instruction. A few days later, the emperor Constantine removed the remaining parts of Andrew's body to Constantinople. Rule saw his angel again who instructed him to take the bones he had hidden and go west by ship. Wherever they were shipwrecked, there he should lay the foundations of a church. He set off on a sea journey that brought him to the coast of Fife where the modern town of St Andrews is. When Rule landed, St Andrew appeared in a vision to the Pictish King (Angus I mac Fergus), promising victory over his enemies. In gratitude, the King approved the dedication of St. Regulus Church to God and Saint Andrew.
However, there is an alternative opinion that the bones were brought to St Andrews about 732 AD by Acca, Bishop of Hexham, a well known venerator of Saint Andrew. He founded a diocese on the site of modern St. Andrews, bringing with him relics collected on his Roman tour, including those of St. Andrew.
According to another legend, in 832 A.D., King Angus II of the Picts, facing a larger army of Saxons at Athelstaneford vowed that if he would win he would make Saint Andrew the Patron Saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle he saw white clouds forming an X shape in the sky. Angus II won the battle despite having fewer warriors. Angus kept his word and appointed Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland.
This story is likely to be based on the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great's victory at the Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D., at the banks of the River Tiber. On the night of a make-or-break battle against a rival emperor he saw the symbol X P (Greek for the first two letters of 'Christ') in the dazzling light of the setting sun and had a dream in which he was promised victory. Constantine ordered his troops to hold the Christian cross at the front of the army, and eventually won.
Churches and cathedrals were dedicated to St Andrew all over Britain. In Glasgow itself there are two churches and a Catholic Cathedral of the saint – the places that we see during our Must See Glasgow Tour. Another gem which you can see on our Glasgow West End Tour is Glasgow University the second oldest university in Scotland. The oldest is Saint Andrew's University that was founded in 1411.
St Andrew is a patron of fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers. On our Glasgow Tours you will discover more stories and legends about Scotland!