Saint Andrew, Apostle

Brother of Saint Peter

Saint Andrew Mosaic, Basilica of Sant Vitale
Clipeus with St Andrew's image, mosaic, intrados of the arch at the entrance to the presbytery, Basilica of San Vitale (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1996), Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna. Italy, 6th century. De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

Introduction to the Life of Saint Andrew

Saint Andrew was the brother of the Apostle Peter, and like his brother was born in Bethsaida of Galilee (where the Apostle Philip was also born). While his brother would eventually overshadow him as the first among the apostles, it was Saint Andrew, a fisherman like Peter, who (according to the Gospel of John) introduced Saint Peter to Christ. Andrew is mentioned by name 12 times in the New Testament, most often in the Gospel of Mark (1:16, 1:29, 3:18, and 13:3) and the Gospel of John (1:40, 1:44, 6:8, and 12:22), but also in the Gospel of Matthew (4:18, 10:2), Luke 6:14, and Acts 1:13.

Quick Facts About Saint Andrew

  • Feast Day: November 30
  • Type of Feast: Feast
  • Readings: Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 19:8-11; Mt 4:18-22 (full text here)
  • Dates: Unknown (Bethsaida in Galilee)-November 30, 60 (Patrae in Achaia, Greece)
  • Patron of: Russia, Scotland, Ukraine, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus, Rumania, Barbados, fishermen, fishmongers, rope-makers, golfers, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, U.S. Army Rangers

The Life of Saint Andrew

Like Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Andrew was a follower of Saint John the Baptist. In Saint John's Gospel (1:34-40), John the Baptist reveals to Saint John and Saint Andrew that Jesus is the Son of God, and the two immediately follow Christ, making them Christ's first disciples. Saint Andrew then finds his brother Simon to give him the good news (John 1:41), and Jesus, upon meeting Simon, renames him Peter (John 1:42). The following day Saint Philip, from Andrew's and Peter's hometown of Bethsaida, is added to the flock (John 1:43), and Philip in turn introduces Nathanael (Saint Bartholomew) to Christ.

Thus Saint Andrew was there from the beginning of Christ's public ministry, and Saint Matthew and Saint Mark tell us that he and Peter left all that they had to follow Jesus. It is no surprise, then, that in two of the four lists of the Apostles in the New Testament (Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:14-16) Andrew comes second only to Saint Peter, and in the other two (Mark 3:16-19 and Acts 1:13) he is numbered among the first four. Andrew, along with Saints Peter, James, and John, asked Christ when all of the prophecies would be fulfilled, and the end of the world would come (Mark 13:3-37), and in Saint John's account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, it was Saint Andrew who spied the boy with the "five barley loaves, and two fishes," but he doubted that such provisions could feed the 5,000 (John 6:8-9).

The Missionary Activities of Saint Andrew

After Christ's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, Andrew, like the other apostles, went forth to spread the gospel, but accounts differ as to the extent of his travels. Origen and Eusebius believed that Saint Andrew initially traveled around the Black Sea as far as Ukraine and Russia (hence his status as patron saint of Russia, Rumania, and Ukraine), while other accounts focus on Andrew's later evangelism in Byzantium and Asia Minor. He is credited with founding the see of Byzantium (later Constantinople) in the year 38, which is why he remains the patron saint of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, though Andrew himself was not the first bishop there.

Saint Andrew's Martyrdom

Tradition places Saint Andrew's martyrdom on November 30 of the year 60 (during the persecution of Nero) in the Greek city of Patrae. A medieval traditional also holds that, like his brother Peter, he did not regard himself as worthy of being crucified in the same manner as Christ, and so he was placed on an X-shaped cross, now known (especially in heraldry and flags) as a Saint Andrew's Cross. The Roman governor ordered him bound to the cross rather than nailed, to make the crucifixion, and thus Andrew's agony, last longer.

A Symbol of Ecumenical Unity

Because of his patronage of Constantinople, Saint Andrew's relics were transferred there around the year 357. Tradition holds that some relics of Saint Andrew were taken to Scotland in the eighth century, to the place where the town of St. Andrews stands today. In the wake of the Sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the remaining relics were brought to the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Amalfi, Italy. In 1964, in an attempt to strengthen relations with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, Pope Paul VI returned all relics of Saint Andrew that were then in Rome to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Every year since then, the Pope has sent delegates to Constantinople for the feast of Saint Andrew (and, in November 2007, Pope Benedict himself went), just as the Ecumenical Patriarch sends representatives to Rome for the June 29 feast of Saints Peter and Paul (and, in 2008, went himself). Thus, like his brother Saint Peter, Saint Andrew is in a way a symbol of the striving for Christian unity.

Pride of Place in the Liturgical Calendar

In the Roman Catholic calendar, the liturgical year begins with Advent, and the First Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Andrew. (See When Does Advent Start? for more details.) Though Advent can begin as late as December 3, Saint Andrew's feast (November 30) is traditionally listed as the first saint's day of the liturgical year, even when the First Sunday of Advent falls after it—an honor commensurate with Saint Andrew's place among the apostles. The tradition of praying the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena 15 times each day from the Feast of Saint Andrew until Christmas flows from this arrangement of the calendar.

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Richert, Scott P. "Saint Andrew, Apostle." Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, Richert, Scott P. (2021, February 8). Saint Andrew, Apostle. Retrieved from Richert, Scott P. "Saint Andrew, Apostle." Learn Religions. (accessed June 2, 2023).