Today is Saint Andrew's Day, a celebration of the patron saint of Scotland. St Andrew himself is said to have been born in Galilee in the early 1st century AD, and it is claimed in the New Testament that he was the brother of Simon Peter.
Saint Andrew is not only revered in Scotland, but also celebrated in many other European nations, such as Georgia – in which he is believed to have been the first preacher of Christianity – Malta, Cyprus, Romania, Spain and also Ukraine. With such a wide range of people's who celebrate St Andrew, one might ask where does Scotland's link with this man come from?
Obviously given the time period he lived in, many stories involving St Andrew are now largely shrouded in myth. However the link with Scotland is arguably the most interesting of all – I'm obviously going to say that, of course. Multiple legends claim that relics of Saint Andrew were brought to – you guessed it, Saint Andrews, Scotland – from Constantinople, the former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as the Byzantine Empire.
Manuscripts that can be found in the Bibliotheque Nationale and the British Library claim that these relics were brought to the Pictish King Oengus I, who proceeded to build a monastery on the site we now know as Saint Andrews. This was only the beginning of Saint Andrews ties to Scotland however, as Oengus II finally solidified the preachers place as patron saint after good fortune in battle.
Legend states that Oengus led an army of Picts and Scots against the Angles of Northumbria, led by Aethelstan, in East Lothian just outside of Edinburgh. The village of Athelstaneford still remains to this day.
It is claimed that on the eve of battle, King Oengus, outnumbered by the Angle host, prayed to St Andrew, and stated that he would acknowledge him as the patron saint of Scotland if they were to be victorious. The King's prayers appeared to have been answered when a cloud formation appeared in the shape of the cross upon which Andrew was crucified. We know this today as the Saltire, it has remained as Scotland's national symbol since the 14th century and takes pride of place in the Union Jack.
Emboldened by his vision, King Oengus II led his army to victory over the Angle invaders, and this set of a chain of events that would ultimately lead to the nation as we know it.
Although King Oengus granted St Andrew the status of patron saint, this was not fully acknowledged until the Declaration of Arbroath, several centuries later.
As mentioned before, the celebration of St Andrew is not only acknowledged in Scotland, as the first preacher of the Christian faith in Georgia, Andrew is renowned in Eastern Europe as one of the many who brought the faith to the Pagan people's who inhabited the region. This also helped spread the faith north & eastward into modern day Ukraine and Russia.
His death is particularly iconic, as he shared the same fate as Jesus Christ, crucifixion, albeit in a slightly different fashion. in 60AD Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross, his remains were moved to Constantinople over three hundred years later by Emperor Constantine.