While I was having a coffee with Tess Gallagher last week (I know, I’m a shameless name-dropper), she asked me about St Andrews – how it got its name etc. So I told her how some of the saint’s bones were said to have been taken there from Patras in the 4th century by St Regulus (AKA St Rule), and that since the 12th century Andrew has been Scotland’s patron saint. The diagonal St Andrew’s cross represents that martyr’s particular form of crucifixion, and it’s our national flag. He’s also the patron saint of Russia, Romania and Greece.
I told Tess that in 2006 I had visited another St Andrew’s, this time the cathedral in the Italian town of Amalfi, jewel of its eponymous coast. The spectacular scenery of this coast is matched by the beauty of its small towns – Positano, Praiano, and Amalfi itself. These towns hug the narrow coastal strip, with some buildings perching on the limestone cliffs above. The churches often feature bright majolica roof tiles.
St Andrew’s cathedral, a cool, bright and beautiful complex of buildings, holds more bones of the saint. Miraculously, it’s said, they ooze a milky fluid on rare occasions. Leaving that to one side (although it’s just given me an idea for a poem), it’s a stunning place.