St Andrews – Scotland, Saint and Saltire

St Andrews – Scotland, Saint and Saltire

St Andrews is the heart of Scotland in many ways. One reason is its name, taken from the patron saint of Scotland who is said to be buried here.

“St Andrew has been celebrated in Scotland for over a thousand years, with feasts being held in his honour as far back as the year 1000 AD. However, it wasn’t until 1320, when Scotland’s independence was declared with the signing of The Declaration of Arbroath, that he officially became Scotland’s patron saint. Since then St Andrew has become tied up in so much of Scotland. The flag of Scotland, the St Andrew’s Cross, was chosen in honour of him. Also, the ancient town of St Andrews was named due to its claim of being the final resting place of St Andrew.” (1)

The history of the Scottish flag started in the 9th century  with a look out to a blue East Coast sky on the eve of a battle against the Anglo-Saxons. At least that is what most sources seem to believe.

The leader of the much smaller Pictish and Scottish forces Óengus II vowed to declare Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if the Saint granted him a victory against the enemy led by Æthelstan, on seeing the clouds forming a white cross in the blue Scottish sky near modern-day Athelstaneford in East Lothian. A cross that looked like the one, Saint Andrew was crucified on: the St Andrew’s cross

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This early victory over the Angles gave Scotland her flag, the Saltire.


The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral are still impressive today; built in the 12th century, the cathedral was the heart of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the largest church ever to be built in this country, but it went into disuse after the Reformation. A large number of bishops is buried in the cathedral. The religious heat has somehow stopped beating in St Andrews.

Could St Andrews be the heart of Scotland without a touch of humour?

It certainly could not. The carved skeleton on one of the more impressive tombs within the cathedral looks strangely amusing. A Victorian memento and a welcome reminder of life.

sources and further reading:

(1) Who was St Andrew?

The History Behind the Scottish Flag



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