52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 23: Images of St Andrew

Thursday 29 November 2012
Woodcut of the martyrdom of St Andrew from a Sarum Missal printed in Paris in 1534.

We couldn’t resist celebrating St Andrews day with some ‘inspiring illustrations’ of our eponym himself. The cult of St Andrew was actively pursued in Scotland by the 12th century: it was in the interests of the 12th and 13th century Scottish kings to encourage a cult which emphasised the distinctiveness of Scotland’s church (and therefore state) from England’s. The dedication of the senior church and bishopric of medieval Scotland to Andrew, therefore, makes him a regular subject of graphic illustration – instantly recognisable due to the unusual ‘decussate’ cross, or saltire, which characterises his imagery. (check out this great animated video from About Scotland on St Andrew and his relationship to Scotland)

The seal of St Andrews Priory, c. 1190 (St Andrews Manuscript ms30276).
Fragment of a seal from a charter by Stephen, Prior of St Andrews, granting land in St Andrews to John of Lindsay, lord of Balcrody, dated 1381 (St Andrews Muniment UYSL110/PW/115).

The earliest image associating St Andrew with this place is on the seal attached to a charter of land granted by Walter, Prior of St Andrews, circa 1190. It shows the Cathedral of St Andrews and St Rule’s tower flanked on one side by a ‘normal’ Christian cross, and on the other by a clear impression of the saltire – surely a reference to the dedication of the church to St Andrew. This is one of the very earliest pictorial associations of St Andrew with the symbolic saltire cross. Later, the Prior’s personal seals were similar to this, but also bore a counter-seal impressed on the back, which took the form of an image of Andrew on his cross. Both the Bishop of St Andrews and the secular authority of the town also used Andrew as a symbol of their positions.

The medieval matrix (left, St Andrews Muniment UYUY103) and seal  from the same matrix, on a 1626 graduation parchment (right, St Andrews Muniment UYUY348) from the University of St Andrews.

One of the more interesting depictions of St Andrew comes from the medieval seal of the University itself, on which Andrew on his cross stands over an academic scene. The seal symbolises the academic purpose of the institution, and over it watches Andrew, in a true sense its patron. This positioning of Andrew at the very heart of the University’s symbolism surely demonstrates the centrality of his position within the University and the nation in the early 15th century.

An 18th century armorial book stamp (top) based on the medieval seal of the University of St Andrews, and a reworked book stamp from the 19th century based on the same seal.

This seal was used as an institutional binding stamp used throughout the 18th century. It can be found on volumes throughout the Rare Book and Muniment Collections. The scene from this seal was reworked for a new 19th century institutional binding (above) which again can be found on books throughout our collections.

Decorated initial ‘U’, with St Andrew, from the Pittenweem Cartulary (St Andrews Manuscript ms37521).

In the Library’s manuscript collections we have two further very striking images. In the 16th-century cartulary of the Priory of Pittenweem, one undated charter begins with a decorative initial ‘U’ which takes the form of a beautifully drawn image of Andrew (to whom the Priory was dedicated). This image is quite different in style, and much finer than the other decorated initials in the book, and may have been executed by a different scribe. (The eagle-eyed may notice that some subsequent, less devoted reader of the book – perhaps as a piece of iconoclasm at the time of the reformation – has embellished the saint with some gratuitous anatomical detail.)

An illuminated initial ‘T’ with St Andrew holding a book and his cross excised from a French missal, circa 1500 (St Andrews Manuscript ms386670).

The jewel in our crown is a piece which we acquired in 2008. It is an illuminated initial letter, from a 15th century French missal. Stunningly drawn in rich colours, and laid with burnished gold, it depicts St Andrew, standing with his cross, holding a book.

The image of St Andrew as part of the Burgh coat of arms of St Andrews which adorns the town hall, in a photograph taken by Andrew G. Cowie in 1969. (St Andrews Photographic Collection AGC-32-22)
The head of the University mace acquired in 1958, taken by University Photographer Peter Adamson. (St Andrews Photographic Collection PGA-M46-013)

The use of Andrean imagery continues unabated – testimony, in modern terms, to the international strength of the ‘St Andrews brand’. We find it used on the Library’s 20th century bookstamps (right); it has been used recently within the Friends of the University Library logo (left); it takes its place as a ‘supporter’ within the University’s new Grant of Arms in 2006 (below); it appears embossed on the bindings of books; and of course it is ubiquitous within the town itself.

A copy of the Matriculation of Arms of the University of St Andrews, 2006 (University of St Andrews Muniment UYUY106).

Whether or not we still understand the centuries-old significance of the association of the saint with the town, the University and the nation, it is nonetheless clear that the imagery still maintains an important place in our modern sense of identity.


with image contributions from the Manuscript, Muniment, Photographic and Rare Books Collections

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1 thoughts on "52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 23: Images of St Andrew"

  • 52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 23: Images of St Andrew | Special Collections Librarianship | Scoop.it
    Sunday 2 December 2012, 3.16pm

    [...] We couldn’t resist celebrating St Andrews day with some ‘inspiring illustrations’ of our eponym himself.  [...]


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