Saint Andrew, Apostle

Andrew was the son of Jonas, the brother of Simon Peter, and a fisherman by trade. The brothers seem to have come from Bethsaida, although at the beginning of Jesus’ public life they are in Capernaum.

From John’s Gospel (John 1:40) we know that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before becoming a disciple of Jesus and one of the Twelve. As a result of Andrew’s first encounter with Jesus, he came to realise that Jesus was the Messiah. He then went to tell his brother Simon, whom he brought to Jesus. He is called in the Eastern Church Protokletos, meaning the ‘first called’, because his calling is the first mentioned in the Gospel narrative. The name ‘Andrew’ (from the Greek andreia, meaning ‘manliness’) seems to have been common among Jews from the 2nd century onward. His Aramaic name is not known.

In all the Gospel lists of the apostles, as well as in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:13), his name is listed among the first four. In John’s Gospel, he is specifically mentioned for his involvement in the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:8). Also in John’s Gospel, we see him with Philip in the episode of the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (John 12:20-26). He appears along side Peter, James and John with Jesus in Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion, when Jesus predicts the destruction of the city (Mark 13:3). Beyond these, there is no strictly historical record of his activities.

It is not certain where he preached the Gospel, where he died, or where he was buried. Eusebius quotes Origen as saying Andrew preached in Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the River Volga and Kiev. Thus, he became a patron saint of Romania and Russia. He was believed to have founded the See of Byzantium (later Constantinople) in AD 38, and installed Stachys as bishop. This diocese would later develop into the great Patriarchate of Constantinople. Andrew is recognized as its patron saint.

Andrew is said to have died by crucifixion at Patras, Achaia in southern Greece. While early tradition shows him bound, not nailed, to a cross like that of Jesus, a later tradition was that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which came to be known as the Cross of St Andrew. This was done at his own request as he felt not worthy to be crucified on a cross like his Lord’s. His supposed relics were said to have been brought from Patras to Constantinople. This was as a counterpoint to the (more solid) claim of Rome to have the relics of Peter and Paul. He also became patron of Patras, the scene of his death.

In another tradition, after the fall of Constantinople in 1204, the Crusaders took Andrew’s body to Amalfi in Italy, and it was given by the tyrant Thomas Palaeologus to the pope in 1461. It was considered one of the most treasured relics in St Peter’s until it was returned to Patras by Pope Paul VI. It is now kept there in the Church of St Andrew in a special shrine.

Andrew’s cult in the western Church was also widespread. From the 6th century, his feast was celebrated everywhere, and there were churches dedicated to him in Italy, France and Anglo-Saxon England.

The inevitable legends also tell of his relics being brought from Constantinople by Regulus (Rule) to the Pictish king Oengus mac Fergusa (729-761) in Scotland in the 8th century. The only historical person with this name was Regulus (Riagail or Rule), an Irish monk expelled from Ireland together with Saint Columba, but his dates do not tally with the story. Regulus built a church in Fife in what is now known as St Andrews – the site of Scotland’s oldest university and the ‘holy’ shrine of golf. But, long before that, it became a centre for preaching the Gospel and later a place of pilgrimage. It was this story, which exists in several versions, which led to Andrew being chosen as the Principal Patron of Scotland from the 8th century.

Apart from Patras, claimed relics of Andrew are kept in the Duomo di Sant’Andrea in Amalfi, Italy, St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland and in the Church of St Andrew and St Albert in Warsaw, Poland, as well as small relics in other places.

In the oldest representations Andrew is shown with a normal Latin cross. The X-shaped cross we now call ‘St Andrew’s Cross’ was associated with him from the 10th century and became common in the 14th. It is represented on the flag of Scotland and is also incorporated into the flag of the United Kingdom (the ‘Union Jack’). His other symbol is, naturally, a fishing net.

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