St Andrews: History
St Andrews is today known as the Home of Golf but the history of the town goes back to around 8000 BC.
The first noted location name in the area was Muckross, meaning Boar's head/peninsula. This was in 370AD and even at this very early era, the area had a strong connection to religion. Muckross was changed to Cennrigmonaid (Old Irish for "King's church peninsula") for the memory of Túathalán, abbot of "Cennrígmonaid".
Christianity came to Scotland in 710 when Nechtan, King of the Picts took up the ritual of the Roman Church.
The Culdees were a Celtic speaking religious order dedicated to the Roman Church. Set up in St Andrews in the early 9th century, a church was built for them around 877 by Constantine II.
In 906, the town became the seat of the bishop of Alba, with the boundaries being extended to include land between the River Forth and River Tweed. It had already occupied a site used for worship since the 8th century AD, since the relics of Apostle and Martyr, St Andrew of Bethsaida in Galilee, who was made Patron Saint of Scotland were laid there.
In 1140, Bishop Robert gave us the beginnings of the town layout as we know it today. There were two main streets that led to the foundations of the new cathedral. This is North St and South Street as we know it today. The cathedral itself took 150 years to build and was finally dedicated in the presence of King Robert the Bruce on 5th July 1318. It was the largest cathedral in Scotland.
By the Middle Ages, the town had become a flourishing European centre of pilgrimage. However the town fell into decay after the violent Scottish Reformation and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. These events led to the ultimate desecration and neglect of the Cathedral. The Reformation was a time of great trouble in St Andrews with martyrs of the faith being burnt at the stake for purported heresy including Henry Forest (1533) who was burnt on the north side of the Cathedral so that the people in Forfarshire could see the flames as a deadly warning. These martyrs of the Reformation are commemorated in the Martyrs Monument at the western end of the Scores.
For three days up to the 14th June 1559 John Knox preached his firebrand religious ideals in Holy Trinity Church. When he had finished gangs devastated the cathedral, tearing it down and plundering the holy valuables inside. The bricks and boulders from the ruins became an open mine up until the 18th century. They were used in many new buildings including the pier on the East Sands.
Mary Queen of Scots visited St Andrews five times between 1561 and 1565 and is thought to have played golf, accompanied wherever she went by crowds of people. The house she stayed in, on South Street near the cathedral, is now used as a library by St Leonard's School.
Provost Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair (1786 - 1861 radically upgraded the town from a failing city in decline to the town we know today.
Today the town is a pilgrimage of a different kind - for golfers. Golfers tremble, in awe, standing on the first tee of the Old Course, with the R&A and Old Tom's statue behind them. For them, this is a divine moment in St Andrews. Just as it was for pilgrims 700 years ago.
Image credits: www.kaiameans.com