Situated on the east coast of Fife in Scotland, St. Andrews is a small ancient town brimming with prestige and history.
For hundreds (and even thousands) of years, elements of religion, education and sport have all been woven into the fabric of St. Andrews DNA. Today, St. Andrew’s remains to be one of Scotland’s notable household names and is a town well known worldwide.
For that reason, here are three interesting facts you need to know about St. Andrews:
Who was St. Andrew?
Every year on the 30th of November, Scotland celebrates the feast day of its patron saint, St. Andrew. The day is celebrated and commemorated with festivities, parades, traditional Scottish music and dancing.
By law, all buildings in Scotland are required to display the Scottish National Flag that bears the image of the Saltire, or St Andrew’s Cross.
However, some of the facts surrounding St. Andrew may surprise readers.
For instance, as the patron saint of Scotland, St. Andrew was not Scottish. In fact, the saint was born in Bethsaida, Israel. More so, whilst alive, St. Andrew never stepped foot in Scotland.
By order of Emperor Constantine, the remains of the patron saint were relocated to Constantinople (Istanbul), 300 years after his death.
Although St. Andrew was strongly associated with Scotland from around 1,000 AD, he only became the official patron saint of Scotland at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.
Notably, St. Andrew is not just the patron Saint of Scotland but is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Italy’s Amalfi and Barbados.
Initially, St. Andrew was a fisherman by trade, however, he is probably best known as Jesus’s first discipline. Alongside his brother, Simon Peter, both became prominent members of the 12 disciplines of Jesus Christ.
On 30 November 60AD in Greece, St. Andrew was crucified. According to folklore, St. Andrew requested to be tied to an X-shaped cross, as he believed he was ”not worthy of dying in the same shape of a cross as Jesus”. Since the year 1385, this X-shape represents the white cross displayed on the Scottish flag (the Saltire).
Up until the 16th century, relics of St Andrew made Scotland a favourable pilgrimage site before these relics were severely damaged in the Scottish Reformation.
However, in 1870, the Archbishop of Amalfi donated a relic piece of the saint’s shoulder blade to Scotland and been stored since in St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.
St. Andrews: The Home of Golf
St Andrews is famously renowned as the “home of golf”, as the origins of the sport are greatly synonymous with Scotland.
Up until 1457, golf was a popular sport in Scotland that continued to grow rapidly as years progressed. However, there was an abrupt end to this when James II of Scotland introduced a ban on the playing of golf. James II introduced this ban believing that young men were becoming too distracted by playing golf, consequently neglecting their archery skills.
Fast forward a couple of decades and the ban was eventually removed by King James IV, who actually became a golfer himself.
That said, the most famous golf course in the world is the Old Course in St. Andrews. Dating back to medieval times, The Old Course at St Andrew’s is known to be the “home of golf” due to the sport being first played on the Links at St Andrew’s in the early 15th century. The course is also known to be one of the oldest golf courses in the world and first hosted the prestige Open Championship (one of the four majors) in 1873.
Today, the Old Course has hosted the Open Championship and incredible 29 times since 1873, with 2015 being the most recent year to be hosted. This record of 29 Open Championships held by the Old Course is more than any other course, with The Open Championship currently played here every five years.
St Andrews has produced some memorable events over the years with many famous winners etching their names into the history books.
Some of these most famous winners include Old Tom Morris (1861, 1862, 1867 and 1874), Bobby Jones (1927 and 1930), Jack Nicklaus (1970 and 1978) and Tiger Woods (2000 and 2005). Jack Nicklaus was once quoted saying:
“If a golfer is going to be remembered, he must win at St Andrews”.
A Prominent University Town
A notable feature of this small town is the University of St Andrews. Founded in 1413, this institution is known to be the oldest university in Scotland, as well as being the third oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Ultimately, the university boasts of its worldwide reputation for teaching and research. The University was the first Scottish university to allow women to enrol as undergraduates (1892), as well as initiating the blueprint for the first students’ union in Britain (1888).
Regarded as ”one of the world’s greatest small universities”, the university is heavily interlinked with the burgh with students of the university making up roughly 1/3 of the population (under 20,000).
The University’s essence of antiquity is illuminated through the building’s unique architecture. Upon entry, visitors to the university are treated to the alluring quadrangles that feature two original colleges of the university. This includes St. Mary’s on South Street (1538) and St. Salvator’s on North Street (1450).
St Andrews boasts of an extensive yet impressive list of alumni including John Wilson (inventor of logarithms), James Wilson (one of the fathers of the American Constitution), James Black (Nobel Prize winner), Fay Weldon (novelist), Sir Chris Hoy (cyclist) and Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
While the university encompasses a blend of rich medieval history coupled with historical traditions, St Andrews bodes well for adapting to the modern and cosmopolitan way of living.
Over the past six centuries, the university has witnessed substantial change, however, one aspect of continuity is the university’s contribution and commitment to the local community. Notably, the balance of historical and contemporary architecture gives St. Andrew’s features that are both charming and prominence.