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‘Icon of St Andrew’ (unknown artist) Scottish National Archive and ‘The Martyrdom of St Andrew’ by Luis Tristán de Escamilla (1585-1624), Bowes Museum, Durham

This week marks the feast day of St Andrew (30 November) and it’s a public holiday in Scotland. The image on the left isn’t what you’d perhaps immediately associate with Scottish iconography. According to biblical sources and others Andrew (brother of St Peter) was martyred in Patras and his relics ended up all over Europe – in Greece, Italy, Poland and also Scotland (for safe keeping, far far away from bandits and crusades). He’s particularly venerated in the Orthodox church, with which the style of this icon is more in keeping as an eastern Saint - reverential, sage, wise, brave. It’s housed in the Scottish Catholic Archives in Edinburgh.  

Andrew is said to have been martyred on an X-shape cross (rather than the better known T-shape, made famous by you know who). And it’s from that shape that we get the Saltaire cross, the flag of Scotland, where Andrew is the patron saint. He’s also patron saint of Barbados, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Ukraine and formerly of Prussia, although their flags don’t feature this gory reminder of his death. This gruesome painting, from The Bowes Museum, is certainly more dramatic than the reverential icon on the left.