St Andrew is Scotland's patron saint and his Saltire (X-shaped) cross is Scotland's flag. Discover more about how he has been represented through the centuries.
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.
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.
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.
Images of St Andrew are also found in our Jacobite collection, in particular on these badges of the Order of the Thistle, the greatest Order of Chivalry in Scotland. The Order was established by James VII and II in 1687, to reward Scottish peers who supported his political and religious aims. After his exile to France, the deposed King continued to use it to encourage loyalty among his supporters.
The Order continues today and you can find out more about it here.
You can find out more about the Collar of the Order of the Thistle in this short film.
The inscription on the blade of this broadsword, made around 1715, shows St Andrew and proclaims support for the Jacobite cause.
This lavish travelling canteen or picnic set, presented as a gift to Prince Charles Edward Stuart by a Jacobite supporter, features St Andrew on the lid.
The canteen is emblazoned with symbols representing the Prince's position, including the three feathers of the Prince of Wales and a pattern of thistles – the Prince was made a Knight of the Thistle shortly after his birth in 1720.
Bonnie Prince Charlie was keen to emphasise his Scottish roots to encourage support, dressing in tartan during his ill-fated time in Scotland, which ended with his defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
For centuries the Saltire has been used as a symbol of the Scottish people, and it continues to represent the nation today – on earth and in space! This flag was flown at Holyrood and then taken on space shuttle mission STS-116 to the International Space Station by astronaut Nick Patrick, whose mother came from Skye.
You can see more objects from the collection featuring St Andrew in this slideshow.
Carved coral figure of St Andrew: Italian, Sicily, Trapani, 17th or 18th century. On display in the Art of Living gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.
Pointed oval, silver snuffbox with straight sides and a double lid, engraved with the figure of St Andrew, possibly by Robert Bowman, Edinburgh, dated 1818. On display in the Art of Living gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.
Glengarry badge of the Royal Scots, picked up at the scene of the Gretna Rail Disaster by John Baillie, brother of Private Andrew F. Baillie, Royal Scots, May 1915, World War I.
Senior Anatomy Medal, awarded to Sir James Whyte Black (1924 - 2010) by the University of St Andrews, 1943, depicting the saint on his cross.
Company flag, Saltire with thistle and crown at centre and motto NEMO.ME.IMPVNE.LACESSET, flown while the battalion was serving in Northern Ireland, c.1975. On display in the National War Museum.
Grey granite with quartz veins, forming a saltire, from Persley Quarry, Aberdeen, Scotland. On display in the Scotland: A Changing Nation gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.