The Twenty-ninth degree in the Scottish Rite is the Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew, and it is from that degree our own Knights of Saint Andrew Chapter takes its name and ritual. There is no explanation in the ritual as to who is St. Andrew and his relation to Scotland. However, the July 26th Stated Meeting will be tyled, and the Valley of Orlando Knights of Saint Andrew will conduct and manage this meeting.
As I started my research into St. Andrew, I found something interesting. There is very little known about Saint Andrew historically. He is referred to in the Bible only a handful of times. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, he is identified as the brother of Simon Peter and was a fisherman just like his brother. Later in Mark, he is listed as one of the 12 men that Jesus nominated to be his companions to accompany him in his ministry. The Gospel of John tells us that Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist, and it was Andrew who introduced Peter to Jesus. Additionally, Andrew is the one who tells Jesus about the boy who has five loaves of barley and two fishes that leads to the miraculous feeding of 5000 followers. The Book of Acts mentions him as one of the disciples who walk back from the Mount of Olives after the crucifixion, and that is where his Biblical story ends.
Any additional stories of Andrew come from local legends written down in later, non-canonical books known as the Apocrypha. Many of the stories over the ages took on a heroic and superhuman aspect that had clear similarities to earlier stories of Hercules or Sinbad. Andrew, unlike Peter and Paul, did not leave a written record of what he did after the crucifixion of Jesus. It was the fact that very little had been written about or by Andrew that made these stories possible as it allowed local cultures to graft St. Andrew onto their legends and added a bit of prestige to early Christian communities. Legend has him preaching in Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Cyprus, Georgia, and Greece. One item that most agree upon is that Andrew was imprisoned and tortured in the city of Patras in Greece and left to die on the seashore affixed to the cross. But even here a written description of what type of cross varies by the story and by the period of history. The most common cross that is associated with the story is an X-shaped one called a saltire, yet there is no description of that shape until the tenth century. Even though there is very little verifiable evidence of what Andrew did during and after the time of Jesus, he plays a major part in the Orthodox tradition. Due to his preaching and death in Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is believed to be his successor (as in the Catholic tradition, the Pope is the successor to Peter).
While that answers to the best of our ability the question “Who is St. Andrew?”, it still leaves the question as to the origin of his relation to Scotland. He is considered the Patron Saint of Scotland. So, does that mean there is some direct historical link between him and that nation? Just like everything else with him, that is a more complex question than one realizes.
The most well-known link between St. Andrew and Scotland stems from a legend that on the eve of a battle, a Pictish king in the 830s vowed that if he won he would make Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. On the morning of the battle, a large X-shaped cross reminiscent of Andrew’s crucifixion appeared in the sky and emboldened by that sign the king won his battle. The vision of the X-shaped cross in the sky became the flag of Scotland. Sadly, no details of this battle or written records of this legend survive from that time. Instead, they come from a document written nearly 700 years later in the 1500s. While the story of the Pictish king is interesting, without contemporary sources from that time, it is nothing more than a story and appears to be another case of local peoples and cultures attaching St. Andrew to legends and stories as a means of adding prestige to such stories.
However, that does not mean though, that there is no verifiable connection between St. Andrew and Scotland. If one digs in the historical record, you can find a more plausible reason for the association of Scotland and Andrew. It appears the relationship between Andrew and Scotland started during the reign of Pope Gregory I. One of Gregory’s missions was to bring Christianity to the peoples of what was to become England and Scotland. Some of the early missionaries that he sent in the late 500s were from a monastery dedicated to St. Andrew. Later, in 674, a church in Hexam, England was dedicated by St. Wilifred to St. Andrew, and it was there that relics of St. Andrew were brought from Rome to be housed. Some of these relics slowly made their way further north, either due in part to the spread of Christianity through the island or due to political turmoil, and eventually found a home in present-day Scotland by 742. It is these relics and the background of the early Christian missionaries that seem to create the more historically verifiable link between St. Andrew and Scotland. This link has existed hundreds of years before the legendary story of the Pictish king and his vision. It shows that St. Andrew had a much longer association with the peoples of Scotland and that Scotland was a place worthy enough to house some of his relics for the people to venerate and feel closer to a person who lived during the time of the Bible.
Chris Durie, 32°
Venerable Master, Knights of Saint Andrew