All about Andrew - the fisherman who became Patron Saint of Scotland

A carved statue of St Andrew in the Museum of Scotland, dated to around 1500.
A carved statue of St Andrew in the Museum of Scotland, dated to around 1500.

Today will see events taking place across Scotland to mark Saint Andrew’s Day - but how did the disciple come to be our patron saint?

The Bible tells us he was a fisherman who converted to Christianity and became one of Jesus Christ’s original disciples, so perhaps it’s no surprise he’s also the patron saint of fishermen and fishmongers.

Why he’s the patron saint of singers and pregnant woman - and is believed to offer protection against sore throats and gout - is not so clear.

Saint Andrew never actually visited Scotland during his lifetime but his kneecap, arm and fingerbone did arrive in Scotland - among other relics after his death.

Fourth century monk Saint Rule was instructed to take them and sail west until he became shipwrecked and to establish a church wherever he landed.

He ended up in the small coastal village of Kilrymont, which we now know as St Andrews.

St Andrews Cathedral was built to house the relics in 1318, but both were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation.

To help restore the sanctity of St Andrews, the Archbishop of Amalfi donated a piece of the saint’s shoulder blade, ensuring that a part of him would remain in Scotland.

Andrew’s brother, Simon Peter, worked with him as a fisherman in Galilee until they both became disciples of Jesus as two of the Twelve Apostles.

Some accounts have Andrew bringing Peter to Jesus, while others say that Peter witnessed Jesus perform a miracle while he was fishing, which convinced him of his divinity.

He is recognised as the first bishop of Rome, with each subsequent Pope named as the successor of Saint Peter.

Whether or not Peter ever actually went to Rome is also a matter of some debate.

Like many of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew was ultimately executed for his beliefs, becoming a martyr for his refusal to denounce Christ.

However, when it came time for him to be crucified, he requested his cross be turned diagonally, forming an “X” rather than a “T”.

He did not feel worthy of the same death as Jesus Christ, and wished for his cross to reflect this.

He was crucified in Greece on a slanted cross as per his request on 30 November 60AD, from which we take both the date of his special day, and the cross on the Scottish flag.

It was not until the 18th century that St Andrew’s day became an annually celebrated event, and the practice actually began in what were then Britain’s American colonies.

In Charleston, South Carolina, a group of well-off Scottish immigrants formed the St Andrew’s Society of Charleston in 1729 in an attempt to reconnect with their Scottish heritage, while also raising money for charity.

Their November 30 parties quickly became popular, and other branches began springing up across the colonies, eventually arriving back on Scottish shores.

Meanwhile Saint Andrew, who was born in the Holy Land between 5 and 10 AD, is also the patron saint of countries including Russia, Greece, Poland, Romania and Ukraine.

The Saint Andrew’s Cross is the emblem of the Russian Navy, which adopted him as saint in the late 17th century, and in Georgia he is credited with being the founder of Christianity in that country.

In the Orthodox tradition, he is revered as “the first-called”.