St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, has quite a history for such a small place.
Legend claims that the town was so called because it harboured the relics of St. Andrew, which were brought here by a bishop, St. Rule, from Patras in Achaea.
It is the birthplace of golf, and the Royal and Ancient Club, which was created in 1754, has been the headquarters of golf ever since.
St. Andrews also has a castle and a university, which is the oldest in Scotland, founded in 1412. Prince William is perhaps the university’s most recent famous alumnus. The College Chapel contains the pulpit where John Knox preached, and in the grounds there is a thorn tree reputedly planted by Mary, Queen of Scots.
The whole place is redolent with historic happenings!
In the early sixteenth century the castle was the home of Cardinal David Beaton, the Catholic martyr, or the bloody oppressor of Protestantism, according to one’s viewpoint. He was a very important man and became Mary Queen of Scots chancellor after she was crowned.
In the early days of the Reformation, Beaton was ruthless in stamping-out the slightest hint of Lutheran heresy, and in the process created the earliest Protestant martyrs in Scotland.
Below St. Andrews Castle is a ‘bottle shaped’ dungeon. This is where Cardinal Beaton imprisoned Protestants, and when they went mad in the darkness and screamed for help …he had them hanged.
One of the first of these martyrs was Patrick Hamilton; a young priest who objected to the church selling ‘indulgences’, (a remission of punishment for sins), and in defiance of Church Law, Hamilton also got married! This was not one of his better ideas.
Beaton sentenced him to death and he was burnt at the stake. It took him 6 hours to die in spite of the logs being smeared with gunpowder, and he became a revered hero because of the great courage he showed during his protracted death.
George Wishart, another married priest, also enraged Beaton and was put to death in the same way.
Cardinal Beaton calmly watched the execution of Wishart and then left to attend the wedding of his own illegitimate daughter! He apparently did not practice what he preached!
Two months later in July 1546, a gang of Fife Protestants, friends of Wishart, broke into the castle and murdered the Cardinal. Afterwards they had his body suspended over the walls by an arm and a leg, so forming the shape of a St. Andrews Cross.
A rhyme of the period concluded ‘For stickit is your Cardinal, and salted like a sow’.
Apparently the conspirators pickled his body in brine during the weeks they held the castle against the forces of the government. Not many people appear to have mourned his passing!!
Today the town of St Andrews is a much more peaceful place. The setting is superb on the coast, the long sandy beach being the location for the opening scenes in the film, ‘Chariots of Fire’. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club is probably the most famous links golf course and venue for the Open Championship. The castle now lies in ruins but enjoys a stunning situation overlooking the coast. It was founded around 1200AD as a home for the Bishop of St Andrews and rebuilt some time in the 14th century, but later destroyed again in 1547.
The nearest railway station is at Leuchars (6 miles), with local bus services operating to St Andrews, please try our UK Travel Guide for further information.
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