Our Saints

St Andrew

St Andrew was first called of Christ’s 12 apostles. Like his brother, St Peter, Andrew was a fisherman from Galilee. Tradition suggests that Andrew was martyred by crucifixion upon an X-shaped cross in the Greek city of Patras.

The founding mythology of Scotland recalls how the relics of St Andrew were brought to Fife by the Greek monk, St Rule, in the year 345 after he was told in a dream to take the bones to the “ends of the earth”. A less mythical explanation is that they were brought to Scotland by Bishop Acca of Hexham in 732.

A century later, the Pictish King Angus, invoked the help of the apostle before the Battle of Athelstaneford in East Lothian. His reward was a vision of a crux decussate or saltire of clouds appearing against the blue sky as an omen of victory - inspiring the design of Scotland’s national flag.

During the Middle Ages, pilgrims flocked to St Andrews Cathedral in Fife to pray at the apostle’s shrine. However, it was destroyed by the protestant followers of John Knox in 1559 as part of a wider violent iconoclasm.

In 1879, a portion of what was believed to be St Andrew’s shoulder bone was gifted to St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh by the Archbishop of Amalfi. A second relic was given by Pope Saint Paul VI in 1969 with the words “Peter greets his brother Andrew”. St Andrew’s Feast Day is 30 November. He is a co-patron of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh.

St Cuthbert

Born not far from Melrose in Roxburghshire about 635AD, Cuthbert’s early years were filled with events pointing to his future as the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon saints. After seeing a vision of the soul of Saint Aidan being escorted to heaven by angels, Cuthbert decided to become a monk and entered Melrose Abbey.

After a spell in Ripon in Yorkshire, Cuthbert returned to Melrose to become Prior before being appointed Prior of Lindisfarne, just off the coast of Northumberland. As Prior, Cuthbert governed gently and faithfully but yearned to be alone with God and so was given permission to go to the Inner Farne, a few miles off-shore from Lindisfarne, to devote himself to prayer and contemplation. However, his holiness continued to be spoken of throughout the country and, following a meeting of bishops, King Ecgfrith persuaded a reluctant Cuthbert to leave his island retreat and to become Bishop of Lindisfarne. He fulfilled his ministry with great tenderness and energy, but the Farnes called to him again.

After two years as Bishop, Cuthbert resigned and retired into solitude, devoting himself to prayer and preparing himself for his own death. When death came, on 20 March 687, he was buried in the monastery at Lindisfarne, where he remained for nearly 200 years before the monks fled from the invading Vikings, taking Cuthbert’s body with them on their journey. After spending over 100 years at Chester-le-Street in County Durham, the monks eventually brought the body of Cuthbert to Durham, where it remains to this day in the cathedral built as his shrine. St Cuthbert is a co-patron of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh.

St Margaret of Scotland

St Margaret of Scotland was an 11th century English princess and a Scottish queen, often referred to as "The Pearl of Scotland".

Born in exile c. 1045 in the Kingdom of Hungary, she was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the shortly reigned and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England. Margaret and her family returned to the Kingdom of England in 1057, but fled to the Kingdom of Scotland following the Norman conquest of England in 1066. She arrived at a spot on the Fife coastline still known as St Margaret’s Hope.

By the end of 1070, Margaret had married King Malcolm III of Scotland, becoming Queen of Scots. Renowned for her intense piety and care for the needy, she served orphans and the poor every day before she ate, washing the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ.

Margaret was as pious privately as she was publicly. She spent much of her time in prayer, devotional reading, and ecclesiastical embroidery.

Margaret’s other charitable works included the establishment of a ferries for pilgrims travelling to St Andrews from both Berwick-upon-Tweed and Queensferry on the Firth of Forth. She also initiated reforms within the Catholic Church in Scotland including successfully inviting the Benedictine Order to establish a monastery in Dunfermline in 1072. Her great deeds are recorded in the 12th century Life of St Margaret, Queen of the Scots, by Bishop Turgot of Durham.

Margaret and Malcolm had eight children, six sons and two daughters, four of whom became monarchs of Scotland. She died at Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh in 1093, days after receiving the news of her husband's death in battle. In 1250 Pope Innocent IV canonized her, and her remains were reinterred in a shrine in Dunfermline Abbey. Her relics were dispersed after the Scottish Reformation and subsequently lost.

With the approval of Pope Pius IX, a relic of St Margaret did return to Scotland in 1862, gifted from the Queen of Spain to Bishop James Gillis, Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern District of Scotland. The reliquary containing the relic is now housed in the altar within the Lady Chapel of St Margaret's RC Memorial Church in Dunfermline.

The annual summer pilgrimage to Dunfermline in honour of St Margaret was resurrected by Archbishop Leo Cushley in 2015 and, thus far, has proven increasingly popular with pilgrims. St Margaret’s feast day is 16 November. For more information: stmargaretsdunfermline.co.uk.

St David of Scotland

St David (1085-1153) was the youngest son of King Malcolm III of Scotland and his wife Margaret who is herself a saint. He contributed enormously to setting up civilising and religious institutions in Scotland.

Although David spent most of his childhood in Scotland, he was educated for some years at the Anglo-Norman court in England. When his brother Alexander acceded to the throne of Scotland in 1107, David became Prince of Cumbria. He married Matilda, daughter of Waldef, earl of Northampton and Huntingdon and thus became an English earl. As Prince of Cumbria he was entitled to an inheritance in southern Scotland.

Upon Alexander’s death, David reluctantly became King of Scots in 1124. He brought with him many knights and courtiers from Norman England, many of whom became the future aristocrats and even kings of Scotland including Bruce, Balliol and FitzAlan, who later became the Stewart kings.

King David oversaw the continuing development of the Scottish state and the organisation of Christianity within it. He set up royal burghs in Stirling, Perth and Dunfermline and founded bishoprics at Brechin, Dunblane, Caithness, Ross and Aberdeen. He also endowed monasteries: Augustinian Canons at Holyrood; Cistercians at Melrose; and Benedictines at Dunfermline. This period in Scottish history has become known as the “Davidian revolution”.

When Queen Matilda died, he gave even more attention to religious matters, reciting the Divine Office himself each day and giving alms. In all he exercised a wholly civilising influence upon his family and upon the nation. David himself died in 1153 and was buried at Dunfermline, where his saintly cult continued until the 16th century Reformation.

Abbot Aelred of Rievaulx, who had been a steward at David’s court in his youth, delivered the eulogy at the Requiem Mass, praising Saint David’s reluctance to become king, his sense of justice and his accessibility to everyone. His feast day is 24 May.

St Kentigern

Saint Kentigern’s mother was the 6th century Brittonic princess, Saint Teneu, of the ancient kingdom of Gododdin, later known as the Lothians. Her son was conceived when the Welsh prince Owain mab Urien raped her. Thus the historian, Elspeth King, has described Saint Teneu as "Scotland's first recorded rape victim, battered woman and unmarried mother".

Upon discovering her pregnancy, her angry father King Lleuddun sentenced her to death and she was hurled from Traprain Law near Haddington in East Lothian. Miraculously she survived the fall; when discovered alive at the foot of the cliff, Teneu was set adrift in a coracle and travelled across the Firth of Forth to Culross, where she was given shelter at the community of Saint Serf. There she gave birth to and raised her son Kentigern, whom Serf nicknamed Mungo, "very dear one".

At the age of 25, Kentigern began his missionary labours on the Clyde, on the site of modern Glasgow. He built his church across the water from an extinct volcano, next to the Molendinar Burn, where the present medieval cathedral now stands. For some 13 years, he laboured in the district, living a most austere life in a small cell and making many converts by his holy example and his preaching.

A strong anti-Christian movement in Strathclyde, headed by a certain King Morken, compelled Mungo to leave the district, and he retired to Wales, via Cumbria, staying for a time with Saint David at St David's, and afterwards moving on to Gwynedd where he founded a cathedral at Llanelwy. While there, he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome.

However, the new King of Strathclyde, Riderch Hael, invited Mungo to return to his kingdom. For some years, Mungo fixed his episcopal seat at Hoddom in Dumfriesshire, evangelising thence the district of Galloway. He eventually returned to Glasgow where a large community grew up around him.

Saint Kentigern is buried in the crypt of the former cathedral which also bore his name, now the High Kirk of Glasgow. The building is now in the ownership of the state and is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland. It is open daily to tourists and pilgrims.

Within the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh there is one parish, in Edinburgh’s Barnton, named after St Kentigern and two high schools, one in West Lothian and the other in Falkirk, also named after the saint. His feast day is 13 January.

Blessed John Duns Scotus

It was from the village of Duns in Berwickshire that Blessed John (c.1266–1308) went on to become one of the most saintly and learned figures in Medieval Europe, always striving to present a harmonious vision of faith and reason. Among his many philosophical and theological propositions, two of the most notable are:

That the incarnation of Jesus Christ was part of God's original plan for creation and would have occurred even if our first parents had not introduced Original Sin into human history.

That Mary, the mother of Jesus, was given grace to be sinless at the instant of her conception. This concept - known as the Immaculate Conception of Mary - was defined as a teaching of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

A Franciscan priest, Blessed John was known across Europe as the "Doctor Subtilis" or "Subtle Doctor" for the penetrating and subtle manner of his thought. His academic career took him from Scotland to England, France and, finally, Germany. He is buried in the city of Cologne where the Latin inscription on his tomb reads:

"Scotland brought me forth. England sustained me. France taught me. Cologne holds me."

Blessed John Duns Scotus was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1993. Reflecting upon this event, Pope Benedict XVI said in 2010:

"Blessed Duns Scotus teaches us that in our life the essential is to believe that God is close to us and loves us in Jesus Christ, and therefore to cultivate a deep love for him and for his Church". His Memorial falls on 8 November.

Venerable Margaret Sinclair

The Venerable Margaret Sinclair was born in Cowgate in Edinburgh’s Old Town in 1900, one of six children who grew up in poverty in a two-room basement. Her father was a dustman and she left school at 14, whereupon worked full-time at Waverley Cabinet Works as an apprentice French polisher, becoming an active member of her trade union.

Her one disagreement with the manager was over a discarded picture of Our Lady she found amongst the junk of the cabinet works. She hung it up over her workplace. The manager took it down and each morning she restored it to its place. In 1918 the Waverley Cabinet Works closed down and she eventually found work in one of the biscuit factories run by McVitie.

Margaret, and her sister Bella, struggled to support their mother with their minimal wages. It was a cruel struggle to pay the rent and to feed themselves, despite also tending to a family allotment. Whenever her mother broke down and wept, Margaret had one unvarying answer, “Dinnae give in!”.

Despite the hardships of her life, Margaret was vivacious, loved pretty clothes and enjoyed dancing. A holiday in the nearby town of Rosewell in Midlothian was, for her and Bella, her first encounter with country life. They celebrated their freedom by going to Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion daily. Bella had some misgivings as to whether they were holy enough to receive so often, but Margaret replied “We're not going because we are good, but because we want to be good.”

In 1923 the Venerable Margaret entered a Convent of the Order of Poor Clares in London, becoming Sister Mary Francis of the Five Wounds, where she helped the poor before dying of tuberculosis in 1925. She was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1978.

During his time 1982 visit to Scotland Pope St John Paul II stated that “Margaret could well be described as one of God’s little ones, who through her very simplicity, was touched by God with the strength of real holiness of life, whether as a child, a young woman, an apprentice, a factory worker, a member of a trade union or a professed sister of religion”.

Venerable Margaret now rests in her home parish of St Patrick’s in Edinburgh where an annual pilgrimage gathers to pray for her beatification every autumn. For more information go to www.stpatricksparish.co.uk.