Church of St Andrew, Holborn Viaduct EC1

Image: above gateway to churchyard. The medieval St Andrew’s survived the 1666 Great Fire of London, saved by a last minute change in wind direction, but was already in a bad state of repair and so was rebuilt by Christopher Wren.


“…the four common identifying characteristics of portraits of St. Andrew: the wild hair, the long beard, a cross, and a book. (However, it is unusual for all four characteristics to be together in the same portrait.)

Wild hair is an individualizing characteristic of St. Andrew portraits from at least as early as the 6th century to as late as the fifteenth. In (this) 13th-century mosaic, where the apostles are labeled, only Paul, Peter, and Andrew are individualized, and that only by the latter’s wild hair and the beards on the other two.

In the hagiography, I have not yet found any direct description of the saint’s hair…In any case, medieval and later artists tend to give the saint a more manageable haircut.

As for the beard, most medieval and later images tend to show it as a good deal longer then the Holbein, and somewhat less forked. In early images, the beard is not long at all.

The Cross is important in the Andrew hagiographies. Not only do they have him die on a cross, but they report lengthy disquisitions on his part explaining the mystery of the Cross…

The portraits sometimes have Andrew with a slender hand cross or processional cross, but more often his cross is pictured as large enough to hold a man, as it is in the Holbein and in (this) fresco from Croatia of about the same period in the 16th century. The fresco uses the style of cross seen in older portraits, a simple ✝ like Christ’s. The X shape, called the “cross saltire” goes back at least as far as the 15th century…

As an apostle St. Andrew is also commonly shown with a book. Just before his death on the cross in the Golden Legend account, he speaks of his yearning for “the purity of contemplation,” and a contemplative emphasis may be behind the way he seems to meditate on his book…”


“St Andrew has been celebrated in Scotland for over a thousand years, with feasts being held in his honour as far back as the year 1000 AD. However, it wasn’t until 1320, when Scotland’s independence was declared with the signing of The Declaration of Arbroath, that he officially became Scotland’s patron saint. Since then St Andrew has become tied up in so much of Scotland. The flag of Scotland, the St Andrew’s Cross, was chosen in honour of him. Also, the ancient town of St Andrews was named due to its claim of being the final resting place of St Andrew…

Despite the fact that St Andrew has stood as Scotland’s patron saint for so many years, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the popular celebration of his day became commonplace. What might surprise you even more is that the tradition of celebrating on November 30th was not even technically started in Scotland, but by a group of ex-pats in the USA who were keen to reconnect with their Scottish roots.

It all began with the creation of the ‘St Andrew’s Society of Charleston’ in South Carolina, which was founded in 1729 by a group of wealthy Scottish immigrants. The organisation is actually the oldest Scottish society of its type in the world. They became famous throughout the region for their work assisting orphans and widows in that area.

This was followed by another society, this time in New York, which was founded in 1756. ‘The St Andrew’s Society of the State of New York’ is the oldest charity of any kind registered in New York and was founded by Scotsmen who were looking to relieve the poor and distressed in the town. From these seeds, St Andrew’s societies have spread around the world as Scots have travelled and settled in the far reaches of the globe.

More recently, St Andrew’s Day has become more and more special to Scots and ranks as one of three major dates during the winter period. Starting off Scotland’s Winter Festival each year on November 30, people across the country gather together to celebrate St Andrew and share good times. The day is usually marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, including dancing, music, food and drink, with parties going on long into the cold winter night.”

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