Monday, November 30, 2015

The National Shrine of St Andrew, Edinburgh

In the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary’s, Edinburgh, one can find the National Shrine of St Andrew. Legend has it that relics of St Andrew were brought to Scotland by St Rule from Patras, Greece, where he was buried. What probably happened was that the relics were brought from Rome by St Augustinein 597 AD as part of his great mission to bring the Word to the Anglo-Saxons. In 732 they were brought from Hexham to Fife by Bishop Acca, who was seeking asylum with the Pictish King Oengus (Angus). The relics were held at Kirrymont, which was later renamed St Andrews. From this time, the remains of the first called Apostle became a major focus of European pilgrimage. Numbers coming to venerate the relics of the Saint grew quickly.

In the 11th century St Margaret, Queen of Scotland, endowed a ferry service across the river Forth and hostels, at north and south Queensferry, for pilgrims. The relics were initially housed in St Rules Church and eventually in the great medieval Cathedral of St Andrews. Twice a year the relics were carried in procession around the town.
Through the dark ages, and medieval period of Scottish history, the Apostle played a major role in the creation and defining of the Scottish Nation. It was commonly believed that the Apostle Andrew had chosen the Scottish people to care for and honour his relics. Therefore, the patron Saint, the saltire flag, the relics and the See of St Andrew became crucial symbols of nationhood.

On 14th June 1559 the interior of St Andrews Cathedral, including the shrine and relics, was destroyed by reformers who had accompanied John Knox to the city.

On the restoration of the hierarchy in Scotland (1878), St Andrews and Edinburgh was made the Metropolitan See of Scotland. In 1879 Archbishop Strain received from the Archbishop of Amalfi a large portion of the shoulder of the Apostle Andrew. The second relic was given by Pope Paul VI to the newly created Scottish Cardinal Gordon Joseph Gray, in St Peter’s Rome (1969), with the words ‘Peter greets his brother Andrew.’ The significant fact was that Cardinal Gray was the first Scottish Cardinal in 400 years.  

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