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Scotland: about St. Andrew

Last modified: 2011-07-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: scotland | cross: saint andrew | saint andrew | saltire |
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[Flag of Scotland] 2:3 (also used in other dimensions); image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 2006

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St. Andrew

[Note: this was originally written for an Anglican audience. There was no intention to offend or exclude people of other faiths, merely to inform people within a particular church context. An updated version of this article can be found at the Saints and Seasons webpage.]

The first-called Apostle
Protokletos, or first-called, is the byname given to the Apostle Andrew in the early Greek Church. This comes from the fact that in John's Gospel he is the first disciple named. (John 1:40) He and another (unnamed) disciple of John the Baptist were present when, on the day after the Lord's baptism, John saw Jesus walking past and said: "Look, the Lamb of God." The two then spent the day with Jesus. Andrew's first action was to call his brother Simon, saying: "We have found the Messiah." Jesus, on seeing Simon, said: "You are Simon, son of John(1). You shall be called Cephas(2)."

This passage in John explains the brothers' meeting with Jesus on the shore of Galilee at Bethsaida, rather baldly rendered in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark:
" 'Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him." (Matthew 4:19,20; Mark 1:17,18)

Andrew (whose feast day is 30 November) seems to have been an approachable fellow: it was he who took the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus. And when a party of Greeks wanted to see Jesus, Philip approached Andrew, who arranged things. Elfrida Vipont, writing in Some Christian Festivals, says: "Because of his approachability, and because of his special gift for bringing people to Jesus, St Andrew has always been especially associated with missionary work."

Indeed in later years Andrew is associated with missionary work on the Black Sea shores, although it is in the heart of Greece that he met his end. Tradition asserts that Andrew was crucified at Patras (modern Patrai), on the northern shore of the Greek peninsula known as Morea or the Peloponnese. No date is known; even the Encyclopaedia Britannica refers to it as being around 60/70 (AD). Traditionally Andrew's cross was X-shaped, and it is a convention of ecclesiastical and heraldic art that he either appears with an X-shaped cross, or saltire, or is symbolised by one.

The Roman Emperor onstantius II ordered Andrew's remains removed to Constantinople in 357. During the 8th century some relics were taken to Scotland where they were placed in the care of a monastic settlement founded two centuries earlier in Fife, called first Mucross, then Kilrymont. But after the arrival of Andrew's relics a new church was built there, dedicated to Andrew as patron saint of Scotland, and the place became known St Andrews. And that is how the home of golf came to bear the name of a Galilean fisherman.

Andrew became known as one of the Seven Champions of Christendom, the others being: George, of England; David, of Wales; Patrick, of Ireland; Denis, of France; James (Santiago), of Spain; and Anthony of Padua, of Italy. The cross (saltire) of St Andrew became the badge of Scotland, although it took some time to become fixed in its present colours of white on blue: mediaeval Scottish armies were instructed to place contrasting bands of cloth on their surcoats, white if the surcoat was dark. Today St Andrew's cross not only forms part of Britain's Union Jack, but plays a role in resurgent Russian nationalism, for Andrew is patron of Russia, too. Peter the Great borrowed the Dutch flag and rearranged its colours for Russia's banner, but he also took Scotland's flag and reversed its colours for a naval jack flag.

The rest of Andrew's remains were transferred to Amalfi (40km from Naples), in 1208 and in the 15th century his head went to Rome. In 1964 Pope Paul VI returned the head to Patrai as a gesture of goodwill to the Greek Orthodox Church. P> The name Andrew (Andreas, in Greek) means "manly". Some say it must have been a translation of a Hebrew or Aramaic name, but Galilee was a very mixed region and Greek was used more freely there than in Judaea. The name became popular in Scotland long before it was much used in England, but also appears in Spain (Andres), France (Andre), the Netherlands (Andries), Scandinavia (Anders), Russia (Andrei), Poland (Andrzej, pronounced Andjay) and Italy (Andrea). The Italian form is used as a girl's name in English, but since it means "manly" there seems little point. Andrew is also associated with earthquakes, through California's San Andreas Fault - named for a Spanish mission church.

(1) John: in Hebrew, Yochanan. Sometimes translated as Jonah (Simon bar Jonah).

(2) Cephas, or Kefas: Hebrew for "rock"; in Greek, Petros, which has become Peter in English.

Mike Oettle, 21 January 2002

As every body knows flag of Scotland is St. Andrew's flag, which is blue banner with a white saltire cross (St. Andrew's cross). Now, Nova Scotia and Russian Navy are using the same St. Andrew's flags, but reversed colors (white banner with a blue saltire cross). The only difference is that Nova Scotia has the Scottish Coat of Arms in the center of the saltire. Technially, all of these countries could call those flags the St. Andrew's flags.  Which is the real one?
"Georgiy", 11 June, 2003

I may get some argument on this, but in my opinion it's either or both and more. What makes it a St. Andrew's cross is not the color scheme but the diagonal orientation, commemorating the legend that Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross. It seems to me that a flag bearing a St. Andrew's cross is a St. Andrew's flag, regardless of the colors, if that's the symbolism the flag designer intended. On the other hand, if a flag designer puts a yellow saltire on blue and intends it to represent St. Alban, then the flag is not a St. Andrew's flag.
Joe McMillan, 11 June 2003

In 17th century Scotland, the colours carried by the infantry regiments that fought against Cromwell in 1648-50 are in a wide variety of colours. There are yellow saltires on black, black on yellow, white on red, red on white, white on yellow, white on black, white on green, red on yellow, yellow on red, white on blue and red quartered, yellow and white quartered on blue, and for those with no imagination, white saltires on blue :-). The choice of colours appears to be have dictated by the livery colours of the colonel. So at that time, it would seem that it was the saltire itself that was the 'national identifier', rather than it having to be a white saltire on a blue (of whatever colour) field.

On the same theme, there is a 16th Century manuscript in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, which contains a roll of the arms of Scottish noblemen (Ms. 130 B 12; internal evidence dates it to c.1592). The first folio shows the arms of the King. The sinister unicorn supporter carries a banner of the arms, but the dexter supporter carries a banner which is barry of six gules and or a saltire argent overall. Or in other words, a saltire placed on the heraldic livery colours of the arms. There is a photo of the page in The Double Tressure, the journal of the Scottish Heraldry Society, issue 10 (1988) on page 23.
Ian Sumner, 12 June 2003

See also:

The saltire as the flag of St. Andrew

A saltire of any colour combinations is Andrew's.
Željko Heimer, 15 January 2001

Assuming "Saint Alban" isn't just another name for Saint Andrew, there appears to be more than one Saint on the list with a Saltire. Apart from the English custom to indicate all centred crosses as "Saint George'(s) Crosses" and all saltires as "Saint Andrew's Crosses", what do you base this comment on?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 January 2001

I can't give you citations from references, but if you take a look at any lexicon regarding the cross, you'll find graphical representation of several cross types there. And, there the cross with oblique bars would be attributed to St. Andrew, I'm sure, without any special reference to Scotish flag. Another example would be a railroad crossing traffic sign. At least in continental Europe it is in form of diagonally crossed red and white bars, and is called Andrew's cross, as far as I am aware, in many European languages. And the Russian Naval ensign is called "andreevski" i.e. Andrew's flag.

Referring to a remark that a Saint Andrew's cross has arms that are perpendicular, and which are at 45 degrees to the edges of the flag, I believe that it is not so, meaning that there is no need for a diagonal cross to have perpendicular bars at 45 degrees to the edges. As far as I am aware, the representation of St. Andrew in church iconography much more often shows the Saint with his diagonal cross being of a shape similar to vertically hoisted Scottish flag.
Željko Heimer, 17 January 2001