History of St Andrews Day

St Andrew’s Day is celebrated on 30th Novemeber and St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.

Andrew was a fisherman from Galilee and was one of Jesus’ disciples. He did not deem himself worthy to be crucified on a cross the same as chirst, so he was cruicfied on an X shaped cross, hence the X in the scottish saltire flag. He can be identified in churches because he has the X shaped cross behind him.

carving of St Andrews cruicifiction on X shaped cross

St Andrew was chosen as the patron saint of Scotland because he was the brother of Saint Peter the founder of the church in Rome. The Scots would use this connection later in history to help pursuade the Pope to their side of the Scottish Wars of Independence.

But we have to go back many years before then to understand why this adoption of St Andrew happened.


Legend says that St Rule (or Regulus in Latin), who was bishop in Greece in 4th century, had a dream. In this dream an angel appeared to him and told him to take as many bones as far away as he could to the western ends of the earth. Here he should found a church dedicated to St Andrew, for safekeeping. He was accompanied on his voyage by a number of nuns, among these Saint Triduana.

Regulus was either shipwrecked or told by an angel to stop on the shores of Fife at a village called Kilrymont and a church was founded here and, eventually, the town’s name changed to St Andrews. The square tower of St Rule’s tower can still be seen in the grounds of the cathedral in St Andrews.

St Rules Tower, St Andrews

Battle of Athelstanford

In the year 834AD there was a battle with Picts( led by King Angus) versus Angles and Saxons (led by Athelstan). Fearing defeat King Angus led prayers of deliverance. As the army prayed the clouds formed a white cross infront of hte blue sky. Angus vowed that if they won the battle Andrew would become the patron saint of the country. They went on to be victorious and in due course the St Andrews cross became the Scottish saltire flag. The town of Athelstaneford in East Lothian is where the battle took place and the heritage centre there tells the story of scotland’s flag.

Fun Fact: The Danes claim their flag, the Dannebrog, is the world’s oldest, but the Saltire predates it, though perhaps not its formal use as a flag, by almost four centuries.

Declaration of Arbroath

In 1320 Robert the Bruce sent the Declaration of Arbroath to the Pope to appeal to him to acknowledge Scotland as an independent country and he used the connection of St Andrew to St Peter in the document:

“..despite being second or third in rank, the brother of the Blessed Peter, gentle Saint Andrew, whom ever since, He has asked to protect them as their Patron.” (translation from the orginal latin, Wikisource).


During the reformation in the 16th century the relics of St Andrew were removed from the cathedral built by Robert the Bruce. Today some of the relics can be found in St Mary’s RC Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Tour to St Andrews from Edinburgh


scottish saltire flag

Other countries that have St Andrew as their patron saint: Russia, Barbados, Cyprus, Ukraine, Romania, Luqa in Malta.