Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Greece and Russia and was Christ’s first disciple.
There are around 600 pre-Reformation churches in England named after Saint Andrew, in contrast to Scotland’s handful of churches of all denominations named after the saint. Nevertheless, it was Scotland that adopted Andrew as its patron – probably because, Saint Andrew being the brother of Saint Peter, it gave the Scots considerable political leverage with the Pope in pleading for help against the belligerent English!
In Greek Andrew means ‘manly’. St. Andrew’s biographical details are simple: he was born between AD 5 and AD 10 in Bethsaida, the principal fishing port of Palestine. His parents were Jona and Joanna; his brother was Simon. Jona, along with his business-partner and friend Zebedee and his sons James and John, was a fisherman.
Andrew had a strong sense of curiosity. He would have gone to the synagogue school at the age of five to study scripture and then astronomy and arithmetic.
Later, on the banks of the Jordan, Andrew met John the Baptist: he was the first disciple and the first apostle. It was he who brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus before the feeding of the five thousand.
According to the apocryphal ‘Acts of Andrew’ he is said to have travelled to Asia Minor and the Black Sea. In the city of Synope he is believed to have suffered great hardships and the house he was in was nearly burnt down. He returned twice more to Asia Minor and Greece, even travelling as far as Hungary, Russia and to the banks of the Oder in Poland.
In Greece, Andrew forced his way through a forest inhabited by wolves, bears and tigers. Finally, in Patras, he was given the choice of being offered as a sacrifice to the gods or being scourged and crucified. By his own request the cross was diagonal. He, like his brother Peter, felt himself unworthy to be crucified on the upright cross of Christ.
He hung for three days on the cross, fixed not by nails but by rope round his hands and feet. Even in his last agony, he continued to preach. So ended the life of Saint Andrew.