George, Andrew, David and Patrick - the Four Patron Saints of the British Isles
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George, Andrew, David and Patrick - the Four Patron Saints of the British Isles

How did England,Scotland,Wales and Ireland decide upon their chosen Patron Saint? Read the story of St. George,St. Andrew, St.David and St. Patrick and you will know.

George, Andrew, David and Patrick are the four patron saints of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland respectively. St George and St. Andrew were martyred for their faith but St David and St Patrick died of natural causes. George was a Roman, Andrew a Jew, David a Welshman and Patrick was born in England of Roman parents. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland remember their Patron Saints on the day that bears their name.

Saint George of England.

Although there is controversy over where George was born there is general agreement that it was probably in Cappadoci  (modern Turkey) in 280AD. Sources describe a tall, fair handsome man who joined the Roman Army when he was about 17 years old. His looks suggest that he was of Dorian descent. He converted to Christianity and became a Tribune with command of 1,000 men. When the Emperor Diocletian persecuted the church in an effort to revive the pagan religion George protected Christians and publicly challenged the Emperor. George was tortured and then beheaded on 23 April 303.

His bravery and his efforts to protect Christians and subsequent accounts of miracles gave him a following which eventually led to him being recognised as a saint by 900AD. His emblem was a red cross on a white background. His reputed bravery and chivalry inspired a red cross on the white tunics worn by the Crusaders and Richard the Lionheart brought the emblem to England in the 12th century. Two hundred years later he was acknowledged as the Patron saint of England.

The well known story of George slaying the dragon is generally believed to be representative of his fight against evil, but a story persists to this day that the dragon was killed on Dragon hill in Uffington, Berkshire, and that the grass does not grow in the place where the dragon’s blood was shed.

St George’s Day is celebrated on 23rd of April, the date of his martyrdom.

Saint Andrew of Scotland

Andrew was one of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. He was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee in the early lst century and died at the end of it. In common with his brother, Peter, he was a fisherman. He became a leader of the church and was crucified in Patras in Greece. He chose to be crucified on a cross in the shape of an X, known as The Saltire, rather than the traditional T shape on which his Master died. His remains were later taken to Constantinople by Constantine the Great.

According to ancient legend 300 years later an Irish or perhaps Greek monk, named St. Rule, was directed by an angel to take St. Andrew's remains to ‘the ends of the earth’. He managed to remove a tooth, a piece of arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from the tomb. He and the relics were shipwrecked on the east coast of Scotland at a settlement which we now know as St. Andrews. A second legend states that a bishop brought them there in 733 where they were housed in a chapel.

In 832 AD the Picts and Scots, under the leadership of one Oengus, fought a battle against an army of Angles. The leader of the Scots made a vow on the night before the battle that if he won then Saint Andrew would become the Patron Saint of Scotland. In the morning white clouds were seen in an X shape on the blue sky and the Picts and Scots were victorious. The vow was honoured and St. Andrew, became Scotland’s venerated saint and a white X on a blue background, the emblem of St. Andrew, became the flag of Scotland.

The chapel which housed St Andrew’s relics was replaced by St. Andrews Cathedral in 1160 making it a centre for medieval pilgrimage.

30th November is his feast day and it is celebrated world wide.

Saint David of Wales

Unlike the two previous saints, David ( the Anglicised version of the Welsh ‘Dewi’) was born in the British Isles The facts of his life were not written until 500 years after his death so inevitably there is a degeree of legend attached to details of his life.

David is said to have been of royal descent. On his father’s side he was linked with a Welsh prince and his mother was a niece of King Arthur. David was born in South West Wales, in the late fifth or early sixth century. He was educated in a monastery and became a missionary travelling through Wales, England and Brittany, converting the pagan Celts of western Britain to Christianity. He is described as being a tall strong man who had a vegetarian diet which mainly consisted of bread and herbs. In character a gentle giant who lived a very simple life. Images of him often include a leek and a dove. Perhaps as symbols of his vegetarian way of life and his gentle nature.

It is alleged that he lived for 100 years and died on 1st March in 589 which is celebrated by the Welsh as St. David’s Day. He was buried in his monastery, now the site of St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.

Saint Patrick of Ireland

image:flickr/katie fuller

Patrick was born in Roman Britain of Roman parents, his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest. The exact date of his birth is not known. When he was 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland where he endured six years of slavery in the county of Antrim where he worked as a shepherd. Here his spiritual life blossomed in spite of the hardships and he learned the Celtic language which was invaluable to him in his later missionary work among the Celts. He learned about the Celtic religion from his master who was a druid. After six years he managed to escape and return home.

In a surviving letter of Patrick’s he describes a vision of a man giving him a letter which was headed ‘The Voice of the Irish’. He imagined them calling him to’ come and walk among us’, which he duly responded to by returning to Ireland to share his faith with the Celts. The date of his death is generally believed to be March 17 461AD. By the seventh century he was acknowledged as the Patron Saint of Ireland. March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day.

The crosses of George,Andrew and Patrick are combined in the Union Jack.  Wales is not represented.

Sources:

http://www.britannia.com/history/stgeorge.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/saints/andrew.shtml http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick http://sucs.org/~rhys/stdavid.html

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Comments (4)

Perfect work. I love what you wrote.

Thanks Martin

It's nice to know the story behind the saint... want I want to know, is how come St Patrick get's all the attention? Maybe we just aren't party animals in the UK like the Irish are... Great post!

I think it may be because the Irish have a flair for story telling!

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