The patron saint of Scotland - and also, incidentally, of Greece, Russia and Romania, among others! - St Andrew also has a town named for him on the coast of Fife, to the north of Edinburgh, where his relics were brought in the eighth century.
Legend has it that in the ninth century a Pictish king was expecting to lose a battle due to being greatly outnumbered, and vowed that if Saint Andrew granted his army a victory he would see the saint anointed as patron saint of Scotland. On the morning of the battle, a white cross was formed in clouds against the blue sky, resembling the cross of St Andrew, and upon winning the battle the king formally recognised St Andrew as the nation's patron saint, and the symbol of his cross became the national flag, the saltire.
In Edinburgh, one of the two large squares planned for the New Town in the eighteenth century was named for St Andrew, with an adjacent church bearing the saint's name too.
Whilst Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, St Giles is the patron saint of Edinburgh itself (and also of blacksmiths, lepers and people afraid of the dark, among others!).
A Grecian prince, by birth, in the eighth century BC, Giles became a hermit residing in a wood in rural France, completely isolated from society. He kept a small deer for company, and legend has it that when a hunting party passed through the woods, Giles threw himself in front of their arrows to protect his animal. He is a traditionally represented with arrows in his hand or abdomen.
It's not entirely clear how Edinburgh became associated with the saint - possibly the general poor health of its population led to St Giles being particularly prevalent in the prayers of residents - but the city's main cathedral in the heart of the Old Town is named for him.
A specifically Scottish saint, Margaret had, in life, been queen of Scotland, through her marriage to Malcolm III in the eleventh century. Margaret had established a ferry service across the Firth of Forth, to the north of Edinburgh, to allow pilgrims easy passage to the reliquary at St Andrews, and the ferry service continued running for nine centuries until the opening of the Forth Road Bridge in the 1960s.
Today the towns of North and South Queensferry survive at the respective sites of the ferry ports adjacent to the river Forth.
After her death, Margaret was canonised and made a saint. One of her sons, David I of Scotland, established a modest chapel in his mother's name, which can be found within Edinburgh Castle as the oldest surviving functional building in the whole city.
Another Scottish saint, Cuthbert was born and lived on the east coast of Scotland and in the Scottish Borders during the seventh century. During his lifetime it is believed that he established the first chapel on the site of the modern St Cuthbert's parish church, near Princes Street Gardens, alongside the stream which originally ran into the valley from the western end.
The current church is the seventh successive church to have been built on the same site in Edinburgh, and as such survives as the oldest continually used site of worship in the city.
Explore more of Edinburgh's history with my private walking tours!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
Search the blog archive...
© COPYRIGHT GARETH DAVIES 2014-21