Happy St Andrew’s Day! This is St Andrews in Kent, our Old House Project. Built in 1484, we think St Andrews was a gatehouse chapel to the Cistercian Abbey at Boxley, and once housed a relic of the finger of St Andrew.
The eastern elevation of St Andrews in 2020. The outline of the chapel's large east window is still visible in the brickwork. Credit: Daniel Bridge.
St Andrews sits at the foot of the North Downs, about half a mile from the famous Pilgrim’s Road which stretched from London to Canterbury. By the 15th century, the Rood of Grace at Boxley Abbey had become a popular site of pilgrimage itself and a source of great revenue for the Abbey. The Rood was a large wooden automaton which moved its eyes, hands and feet and even shed tears.
A Boxley pilgrim badge of the Rood of Grace. Credit: Alan Suttie
Boxley Abbey also owned the relic of a finger of St Andrew, clad in silver, and we think that this was housed in St Andrew’s Chapel before the Dissolution. The building still has squints to the north and south that would have allowed glimpses of the relic from outside.
A 15th-century reliquary of a finger bone, possibly Flemish. Credit: Walters Art Museum
So who was St Andrew?
Saint Andrew is believed to have been born in Galilee between 5-10 AD. According to the New Testament, Andrew and his brother Simon Peter (Saint Peter) were fishermen before becoming two of Jesus’ 12 apostles or disciples. Andrew is said to have been martyred at Patras in AD 60. A tradition developed that Andrew was crucified on a an X-shaped cross, or "saltire", as he thought himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus.
The chancel window at St Andrew's Greensted in shows the matyrdom of the saint. CC BY-SA 4.0 / Acabashi
Legend claims that St Rule fled Greece with the bones of Saint Andrew to Scotland after Emperor Constantine ordered their removal to Constantinople. Today relics of St Andrew are held St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh and at the Church of St. Andrew at Patras.