SAINT ANDREW, THE SALTIRE AND SCOTLAND
Saint Andrew’s Day which closes out the month of November is named for Saint Andrew, who has been the patron Saint of Scotland for quite some time. Biblically, Andrew is the brother of Simon Peter, both of whom were fishermen. Andrew is reputed to have been crucified by being tied to (rather than nailed to) a crux decussata or “X” shaped cross, in accordance with his wishes not to have the same kind of cross used for Jesus. He claimed he was “unworthy” to have the same kind of cross. This is the Saltire, which becomes a symbol of Scotland.
Legend has it that it was in the 9th Century that Andrew became Scotland’s patron saint. In 832, in what is now the area of East Lothian known as Athelstaneford, there was a battle between the joint forces of the Picts and Scots (i.e. The Scoti - the Gaelic speaking inhabitants of Scotland) on the one hand and the Angles. Óengus II led his army against superior Angle forces under the leadership of Aethelstan. Greatly outnumbered, on the evening of the battle, Óengus II prayed and promised to make St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland should he be victorious.
The morning of the battle came, there appeared in the skies a white crux decussata made of clouds against a blue sky. Taking this as a sign of victory, the army took to the field and were indeed victorious. True to his promise, Óengus II named Andrew the patron saint of Scotland and the Saltire represents the white clouds against the blue sky.
This story, however, seems to date from a later time (perhaps 12th Century or a bit earlier). Some of these earlier stories mention the battle as well although the enemy is not named.
Complicating matters, is the fact that Óengus I (who is thought to have died in 761) is thought to have established St. Andrews (the place) , as a religious site and it is, according to legend, the place to which St. Regulus brings the relics of St. Andrew (the person) hence the name of the place. This seems highly unlikely given the fact that St. Regulus is one of the monks who came with St. Columba (7 December 521 - 9 June 597), the Irish monk who brought Christianity to Scotland from Ireland. Another theory is that Acca, the bishop of Hexhum had them in this possession and brought them from Hexham when he was driven from there about 732.
At any rate, the various stories tie Óengus I and II and St. Regulus and the town of St. Andrews together in a neat (if inaccurate) package. While the Picts had St. Andrew, the Scots were involved with St. Columba. However as St. Peter began to assume primacy there seems to have been a shift away from Columba whose importance was more in the Celtic church than the Roman Catholic one. As a result, there was a shift to a "more important" saint, and Andrew as the brother of Simon called Peter would have been an obvious choice. Since Andrew's relics were already in Scotland it would certainly made the move to Andrew more appealing.
The story seems to have had additions made to it over time and hence tracking down some of its accuracy is close to impossible. It is interesting that in some areas of Scotland and Northern England, the Saltire is placed on chimneys to block witches from entering from that route.
Some time ago there was some thought among some Scots that it might be a good idea to try to get Americans to accept St. Andrew’s Day as the onset of the Christmas season. Americans however, have had Thanksgiving and the holiday that does just that (as evidenced by the arrival of Santa Claus in the Macy Thanksgiving Day parade).
St. Andrews Film Festival at Brooklyn College
The Saltire Society of New York in Association with Brooklyn College will host the annual St. Andrews Day film festival on Wed. Nov. 28th at Brooklyn College's Woody Tanger Auditorium in the LaGuardia Library.
The program will discuss two films and their depictions of Scotland. The first is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1945 film I Know Where I'm Going, starring Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesay. Powell and Pressburger are known for such spectacular films as The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and Tales of Hoffman. Wendy Hiller became famous playing Eliza Doolittle in the 1937 version of Pygmallion with Leslie Howard. She appeared in many films including Murder on the Orient Express.
The second film is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for which Maggie Smith brilliant portrayal of the title role earned her the Oscar for best actress in a leading role in 1970. This is a powerful film directed by Ronald Neame (Tunes of Glory, The Poseidon Adventure) set in 1930's Edinburgh.
The program will run from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm
Admission is free
Directions to the college are found below: