30 November is celebrated as Saint Andrew’s Day by Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant denominations. According to legend Andrew the Apostle, brother of Saint Peter, was crucified on an X-shaped cross. Today, Saint Andrew’s cross feature on flags all over the world.
Happy Saint Andrew’s Day to the Scots! Saint Andrew’s Cross, also known as Saint Andrew’s Saltire, has been the national flag of Scotland since the 15th Century.
Across the Atlantic, the flag of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia resembles that of Scotland. The flag, created in 1858, is a banner of the province’s coat of arms from 1625: the colours of the Scottish flag are reversed; in the middle the Royal Arms of Scotland.
In 1606, King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England and a new flag was designed joining together the blue-white Saint Andrew’s cross of Scotland and the red-white Saint George’s cross of England. This Union Flag became the national flag of Great Britain in 1707 after the Acts of Union. In the 17th and 18th Century a Scottish version of the Union Flag was in unofficial use. Unlike the official version, it had the Scottish cross superimposed on the English cross.
On the European continent another version of Saint Andrew’s cross also originated in the 15th Century. The Cross of Burgundy is a red, knotted Saint Andrew’s cross on white. In the 16th Century the lands of the Burgundian dukes in present-day France, Belgium and the Netherlands were inherited by the Habsburg dynasty. Since 1506 and the first Habsburg king in Spain, the Cross of Burgundy has been a part of Spanish history.
The City of Huesca in Aragon, Spain has a flag with the Cross of Burgundy dating back to 1707. From Spain the Cross of Burgundy spread to all parts of the Spanish Empire.
The flag of Alabama is from 1895. It is codified as “a crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white”, but its creators also ment for it to suggest the Confederate Battle Flag. The flag of Florida is from 1900. It has the state seal and a red cross on white. The flags of Alabama and Florida recall the Cross of Burgundy of those Spaniards who were the first Europeans to reach their shores 500 years ago.
In two of Spain’s autonomous communities the capital city feature a red cross of Saint Andrew on its flag. The City of Logroño is the capital of La Rioja. The City of Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of the Basque Country.
The flag of Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, is similar to the Scottish flag, but the blue colour is of a darker shade. The white of the cross symbolizes the snow on the Teide volcano which gave the island its name: Tenerife means “the white mountain”.
This is part 1 in a series about Saint Andrew’s crosses in flags. Read also The Russian Connection.