The cult of St Andrew came to the east of Scotland from Europe in the 9th century. It was distinct from the early Celtic church, which came from Ireland, and the traditions of the different groups of peoples who had lived here in earlier centuries.
The cult soon became well established, and many people went on pilgrimages to St Andrews, its centre. Pilgrims believed that the relics of St Andrew had been brought there by St Rule. According to legend, St Andrew, one of Christ's disciples, was crucified on an X-shaped cross.
Above: 14th-century pilgrim's badge mould found in the churchyard of old St Andrew's Church in North Berwick. Badges signified that the wearer had visited a place of pilgrimage.
By the early 14th century, St Andrew was recognised as 'patron and protector' of the Scots, replacing St Columba. His symbol, the Saltire, was adopted as the national emblem. It was carried at the field of Bannockburn in 1314 along with the Brec Bennoch of St Columba, which has in the past been associated with the Monymusk reliquary, also in the National Museum of Scotland.
Above: In the 19th century the Monymusk reliquary was thought by some to be the Brec bennoch of St Columba. However, recent research has questioned this tradition.
Above: Oak figure of St Andrew, on display in the Kingdom of the Scots gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.
This oak figure shows the saint dressed in long robes belted around the waist, carrying his cross in his left hand and a book in a pouch in his right hand. It was made in Northern Europe, possibly in the Low Countries, c.1500, and was probably once part of a screen or altarpiece.
Throughout the National Museum of Scotland you'll find various representations of St Andrew and his symbol, the Saltire. To one side of the oak figure you'll find a blue silk Saltire flag, said to have been carried at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, when Scottish forces loyal to Charles II faced Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian army. Further into the gallery a painted wood ceiling boss from Linlithgow Palace portrays a unicorn carrying an early version of the Union Jack, with the Saltire clearly visible within the union flag.
Above: Carved wooden ceiling boss from Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, c.1617.