Lives of Saints

Heroes, Legends, and Bones: Part 2

This is the second article in a three part series on St. Andrew the First Called by Dr. David Brown. Click here to read the first article in this series.

Heroes, Legends, and Bones: Part 2

Part Two: Legends

At this point, we will look into what we can learn about our hero Saint Andrew from sources outside of what the Bible tells us.

Andrew in Oral and Written Traditions

Much of the synopsis and details of the life and journeys of Saint Andrew that I speak of below are from George Alexandrou, who wrote a thousand page book on Andrew entitled He Raised the Cross On Ice.  (The book is written entirely in Greek, so I have not read a word of it.  My information is from a 28-page article/interview with Mr. Alexandrou in the journal Road to Emmaus, Volume 5, Number 4 (#19).  It was in English, so I did try to read it.)

In the first century world, travel was not only possible, but was also well documented.  Famous trade routes of the time included:

Silk Road: Han-China to Rome

Cinnamon Road: Shanghai to Borneo to Java to Tanzania

Spice Road: China to Burma to Sri Lanka to Pakistan to the Red Sea

Golden Road: from Kingdom of Zimbabwe to Mediterranean Sea

Amber Road: from Baltic Sea to Rome, through Denmark and Britain

Verangian Road/Dneiper Road: from Crimea to Kiev to Valaamo to Baltic Sea

Tin or Pewter Road: Mediterranean to Cornwall

Lapp Trade Route:  Baltic Scandavia to Scotland

Greek Merchant Route: Slavic Baltic to British Isles around Spain to Greece

No visas or documents were required for crossing borders.  Culturally, travelers for the most part were treated as friends or special people.  Saint Andrew could have potentially traveled all of these routes.  When Christ commanded that the apostles preach the Gospel to “the ends of the earth,” this mandate was taken literally.  “Ends of the Earth” in the Greco-Roman world was quite specific, not allegorical.  Maps of the known world at the time literally had their ends.  These “ends” are where the apostles were headed.  There are many written 2nd and 3rd century traditions that have accounts of the apostles in Middle Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Indian, Burma, Sogdiana (modern Uzbekistan/western China).  Pithias (330 BC) documented travel from Cornwall to Scotland to Thule (which was either Iceland, Greenland, or northern Scandanavia) to Marseilles in 45 days.  Diogenes (100-170 AD, not the philosopher) walked from Alexandria to Rwanda/Uganda/Congo-Zaire to Tanzania in 25 days.  These are a few historical examples in that time period that show us that extensive travel was more than feasible.  A simple, unostentatious man such as our hero Andrew could travel throughout all lands.  For a simple, humble man, nothing is impossible.

Oral and written traditions mentioning Andrew come from an amazing breadth of cultures and languages.  A few cultural traditions regarding Andrew include those from northern Russia, central Asia, eastern Europe, Ethiopia, Kalash/Pakistan, (“Indrein,”) and old Romania (“Indrean”).  Languages where Andrew is mentioned include: ancient Greek, modern Greek, Pontian Greek, Calabrian Greek, Georgian, Abhazian, Slavonic, Serbian, Russian, Ukranian, Romanian, Kalasha, Baganda, Kurdish, Ethiopian Geez, Ethiopian Amharic, Coptic, Aramaic Syrian, Turkish, Turcik or Central Asia, Iranian, Bulgarian, old English, English, German, Italian, Latin, Albanian, Finnish, Karelian, and Armenian.

Mr. Alexandrou’s research accepted all evidence as possible, echoing my “why not?” perspective I spoke of in Part 1.  The strongest evidence came from written accounts, verified by oral tradition, that fit temporally and geographically between cultures.  (i.e. the Khazakstani tradition fit with the Sogdiana tradition that fit with the Parthian tradition that fit with the Syriac tradition. Puzzle pieces from Bulgarians, Romanians, Ethiopians, Aramaic people, Syrians, the Copts, the Greeks, and Romans all fit together to give the following accounts of Andrew’s missionary travels.)  His journeys formed a type of geographical cross, the Cross of the North.  The vertical bar of this cross spans from Russia in the north to Greece in the south.  The horizontal bar goes from Finland (or perhaps Scotland) in the west to Spruce Island, Kodiak, Alaska (missionized by Valaamite monks in the 1600’s) in the east, with St. Andrew at the center.  (In the icon Synaxis of Valaam Saints, an icon of the historical saints of Valaam Monastery, not far from St. Petersburg, Russia, Andrew is in the center of the gathering.)

Andrew’s Missionary Journeys

In my mind, I categorize Saint Andrew’s four missionary journeys based on the major body of water his travels were in proximity to.  Journey 1 was near and around the Caspian Sea.  Journey 2 was in and around the Black Sea primarily.  Journey 3 involved the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.  Journey 4 was essentially the Black Sea north to the Baltic Sea, and then south to the Aegean Sea.  Below are geographical summaries of the likely places Andrew’s four major missionary journeys took him:

1st Missionary Journey: Lydda (Palestine), to Antioch, to Ankar, to Edessa, to Byzantium (36 AD ordained St. Stachys, one of the 70, as first bishop), to Bythinia, to Cappodocia, to Galatia, to Greek Pontus, to Georgia, to Armenia and the Caucauses, back to Jerusalem

2nd Missionary Journey:  Jerusalem to Lydda to Antioch, ship to Cyprus (Cape of St. Andrew), to Ephesus (to see John), to Nicea, to Pontus, to Georgia, to Partha (Persia/Iran), to Kurdistan, to Pakistan/Iran border, to Afghanistan, to Sogdiana (on the Silk Road), to Uzbekistan/western China, to Kurdistan (almost martyred), back to Jerusalem

3rd Missionary Journey:  Sea route from Arabian Peninsula to Mozambique, to Tanzania to Rwanda/Congo/Uganda (rescued St. Matthew from Cannibals), to Ethiopia (through Kenya?), to Sudan, to Egypt, to Jerusalem

4th Missionary Journey:  (After the Dormition) Jerusalem to Pontus, to Georgia, to Caucauses, to  Sea of Azov (southern Russia), to Donets, to Crimea, to Kiev, to Moscow, to Novgorod, to Lake Ladoga (Valaam), (Maybe to Solovki), to Finland (maybe to Scotland and back to the Baltic), to Poland, to Slovakia, to Romania for 20 years of relative rest (from there to Bulgaria, Moldavia); then to Crimea, to Sinope, to Greece, Patras (martyrdom).  (Maybe went to Calabria, Italy, from Patras at some point.  Lots of churches in Calabria with St. Andrew as Patron. )

(A quick note on Andrew in Scotland. It is possible that Andrew visited Scotland in person, both temporally and geographically, but it has the weakest evidence for an apostolic visit.  At the very least, some of his relics made it to what is now modern day Saint Andrews, Scotland, as early as the 4th century, and as late as the 8th or 9th centuries.)

Andrew was one well-travelled man, visiting an astonishing variety of lands and peoples in his lifetime.  It is not possible from our current point in history to prove these travels, however his broad influence is still in evidence today.   He is acknowledged as the patron saint of the countries of Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Scotland, Barbados, and the former Prussia, as well as the cities of the former Constantinople in Turkey, Amalfi in Italy, Esgueira in Portugal, Luqa in Malta, Parañaque in the Philippines and Patras in Greece.

Andrew_crossAndrew’s Martyrdom

After a period of relative rest and residence in southeast Romania (where current day pilgrims visit the Church of Saint Andrew’s Cave), our hero traveled south to Greece.  He made apostolic visits to Epirus, and then to Thessaloniki.  In Thessaloniki, he was placed under arrest by the Roman rulers and put in an arena with wild animals.  Andrew was so popular with the locals that an uprising occurred, and the Saint was released.  From there he travelled to Lamia, and then on to Loutraki and Corinth, and finally to Patras.  In Patras, after a ministry of likely a few years, establishing the church and ordaining Saint Stachys as bishop, he was arrested by the Roman Prelate Aegeates, and sentenced to crucifixion.  Aegeates ordered him to be bound, rather than nailed to the cross, to prolong his suffering.  Historical evidence is strong that he was crucified by being bound with ropes, and that his crucifixion lasted over three days before he died.  Legend has it that he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Christ, and as such he requested to be hung on a decussate or saltire cross (a “Saint Andrew’s” cross), although this is not seen in tradition until the 1200’s.   Some historians have placed his death under Nero’s reign, but this is not historically likely. It is possible that it was under Domitian, but it is more likely that is was later under Trajan.  (There persist to this day Romanian folk songs speaking of Andrew meeting Trajan.)  Most likely Andrew was martyred just before John’s death (most historians think John was the last surviving Apostle), but it could have been after.  Andrew was probably 85-95 years old, around 95-105 AD.   He allowed himself to be crucified, but did not seek it.  Because of his favor with the populace and the soldiers, and because of his advanced age, he likely could have escaped crucifixion.  Aegeate’s wife, Maximillia, was a believer and also could have come to his aid.  He did not love martyrdom, but Christ.  Therefore, he was unwilling to compromise for the sake of Christ, and ended his long apostolic call in martyrdom.  Maximillia had Andrew laid to rest in Christian burial.


About the Author

Dr. David BrownIMG_4661

Dave is married to his best friend, Amy, and is dad to six kids ranging from college age to elementary school.  He puts bread on the table by practicing ophthalmology and doing cataract surgery.  He enjoys golf, but doesn’t play enough to have a decent handicap.  He is advancing through the belts of Tae-Kwon-Do with one of his sons.  He enjoys mosaic portraiture/iconography.

Christian background:  Dave’s Christian journey began with baptism as an infant in the United Methodist Church.  His primary spiritual influence was his mom.  From age six until after college, his church life was spent in non-denominational charismatic churches.  He attended Oral Roberts University, partly in hopes of figuring out what he believed and why he believed it.  Throughout his post college years, he and his wife journeyed within Evangelicalism from Pentecostalism to reformed Calvinism, with several stops in between.  The search for more answers accelerated whilst living in East Africa as medical missionaries, centering on the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism.  Soon thereafter, Dave had a friend unexpectedly convert to Roman Catholicism, forcing some further investigation.  Looking into the history of Christianity led to the study of Reformation history (the beginning of Christian history for him at the time), which then led to the “discovery” of the early church history and Patristic writers.  The ancient apostolic church evidenced itself through this history and the witness of the church Fathers.  After a long journey, and strong guidance from both Roman Catholic and Orthodox shepherds of souls, he, along with his wife and children, were received into the Orthodox Church in 2010.  They attend Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

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