Andrew, St.

Andrew, St. (manly) (first century) In the Bible, N.T., one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus; patron saint of Russia and Scotland; protector of fishermen, fishmongers, and sailors. Invoked against gout and stiff neck. Feast, 30 November. In the New Testament Andrew was the brother of St. Peter. He was one of the first two disciples of Jesus and is considered in Christian tradition to be the first missionary because he brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus.

In Mark’s Gospel (1:16) both Andrew and Peter immediately “forsook their nets” and followed Jesus when he called them to give up their trade as fishermen. We know nothing further of Andrew after the Resurrection of Jesus. An Acts of St. Andrew, which no longer survives complete, was written in the early part of the third century. It depicts St. Andrew as imprisoned at Patras and describes his death by crucifixion, though the type of cross is not mentioned, and scholars have debated as to its form.

The one that appears most frequently in Christian art is the X-shaped cross, called the crux decussata. The cross of St. Andrew appears on the British Union Jack, along with the crosses of St. George and St. Patrick, representing, respectively, Scotland, England, and Ireland. According to legend, Achaius, king of the Scots, and Hungus, king of the Pics, saw St. Andrew’s cross in the sky before their battle with Athelstane, which they won. They therefore adopted the cross of the saint as the national emblem. Andreas, a narrative poem in Old English, formerly attributed to the poet Cynewulf, is based on an early Greek work Acts of Andrew and Matthias.

The poem tells of St. Andrew’s mission to the Mermedonians, Ethiopian savages who had imprisoned Matthias. According to The Golden Legend, a series of saints’ lives written in the 13th century in which numerous earlier sources were combined, Andrew made missionary journeys to Scythian Russia, Asia Minor, and Greece, preaching the gospel. At Nicaea he saved the inhabitants from seven Demons that plagued them in the shape of dogs. Later, on another journey, a dead boy was brought to the saint. Andrew asked what had happened and was told “seven dogs came and strangled him.”

Andrew said these were the seven he had driven out in Nicaea. “What wilt thou give to me if I raise him?” he said to the father. “I have nothing so dear as him; I shall give him to thee,” the father replied. Andrew then raised the boy to life, and he became a disciple of the saint. Other episodes tell how St. Andrew, dressed as a pilgrim, saved a bishop from yielding to the charms of a courtesan, who in actuality was the devil.

Another episode tells how he cured Maximilla, wife of the Roman governor Egeas. When she became a Christian, Maximilla discontinued sexual relations with her husband. This was too much for the man to bear, and St. Andrew was imprisoned and finally crucified as a result. Luther, in his Table Talk, tells of the custom of young girls stripping themselves naked and reciting prayers to St. Andrew on the eve of his feast day, to see “what manner of man it is that shall lead” them to the altar. In Christian art St. Andrew is usually portrayed as an old man with a white beard, holding his cross or on his knees gazing at it.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to the saint is Bernini’s magnificent church of Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale in Rome (1658–1670). It took the artist 12 years to complete the oval building. Behind the altar is a painting of St. Andrew’s martyrdom on the cross. Above the altar is a statue of the saint gesturing toward heaven, which is symbolized by the skylighted opening in the gold dome.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante