St. Andrew’s Day: From Middle East to Scottish highland

by Gül Demir and Niki Gamm

ISTANBUL – In Istanbul an ecclesiastical ceremony will take place Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener and the president of the World Council of Churches Cardinal Walter Casper will attend. The Pope was present at the ceremony that took place in November 2006.

Are you Scottish, Greek, Romanian or Russian? Then you’ll know that Sunday is St. Andrew’s Day as he is the patron saint of Scotland, Greece, Romania and Russia.

The Apostle Andrew is said to have founded the Christian Church in Bithynia which was located in the area of today’s Bursa and İznik. He is supposed to have gone further north into Thrace and then crossed the Black Sea. According to Greek tradition, Andrew landed on the shore outside Constantinople in the place where Fındıklı is today. There he is said to have built a prayer chapel but there’s no sign of such a structure today.

According to Byzantine tradition, St. Andrew was one of the first apostles called to the Bithynia, Byzantium area and he is associated with the claim that the See of Byzantium was apostolic in origin. In fact St. Andrew is acknowledged to have been the founder of the Greek Orthodox Church in Constantinople and he later went on in 44 AD to found the Georgian Orthodox Church.

According to biblical sources, Andrew was the elder brother of Simon Peter and the first man to have become an apostle or follower of Christ. Both were fishermen until they were converted to Christianity by Jesus Christ. Andrew embarked on a missionary journey after Christ’s death and spread the Christian religion throughout Anatolia and Greece. One tradition says the Romans crucified him in Patras, Greece. He was hammered to a cross of diagonal shape and this is supposed to have been the shape of the Cross of St. Andrew that appears on the Scottish flag. His brother Peter is considered the founder of the Papacy in Rome.

The saint’s bones were laid to rest in Patras but the Emperor Constantine wanted to have them moved to his new capital, New Rome or Constantinople, some 300 years later. The legend goes that a Greek monk or possibly an Irish monk saw in a dream that St. Andrew’s bones were to be moved and he was told by an angel that he should take whatever he could from the skeleton to the “ends of the earth.”

In those days The Scottish Isles were about as far as anyone had any knowledge in those days so he took a few of the bones (a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers) and went there and if he needed any persuasion that he had reached the right place, his ship was wrecked there.

St. Andrew closest to Scotland
It is with Scotland that St. Andrew has been most closely associated even to the point of November 30th being proclaimed a holiday. While we know St. Andrews, Scotland as the center of great golfing and the home of an outstanding university, it is less known as the repository of some of the relics or bones of St. Andrew. The cathedral was built in the 12th century but fell into disuse following the Reformation in the 16th century. Today it lies in well-preserved ruins and the relics have disappeared and probably were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation when the Catholic Church was rejected.

It was after Robert the Bruce’s famous victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 that St Andrew was officially named patron saint of Scotland and the diagonal cross became the national flag of Scotland in 1385. The flag is in the form of a white X on a blue background and is commonly known as The Saltire.

Crusader sack of Constantinople in 1204
The Crusaders who attacked and sacked Constantinople in 1204 probably stole what remained of St. Andrew’s body according to one story or only his skull according to another. They / it ended up in Amalfi, Italy and are still there today. There is however a silver box in a church in Patras, Greece that is supposed to hold the skull of St. Andrew. It’s really amazing how many bones can be attributed to one person.

In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a small piece of the Saint’s shoulder blade to the re-established Roman Catholic community in Scotland and in 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the person appointed to be the first Scottish Cardinal since the Reformation more of St. Andrew’s remains. He is supposed to have accompanied the gift with the words, “Saint Peter gives you his brother.” The Roman Catholic Pope is supposed to be in a direct line from Peter. These relics are in St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.

St. Andrew’s Day is a day to celebrate Scottish culture, food and dance and festivities are planned every year. It also marks the start of Scotland’s winter festivals. Would St. Andrew have been pleased? Unfortunately we don’t know enough about Andrew as a person but we hope he would have had a good time.

Here in Istanbul an ecclesiastical ceremony will take place Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener and the president of the World Council of Curches Cardinal Walter Casper will attend. The Pope was present at the ceremony that took place in November 2006.

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