St. Andrews Early History
Evidence found in ancient archaeological sites in and around St Andrews, dating back to the Bronze Age, indicates that there was early human settlement in the area. This leads us to believe that people inhabited the St Andrews area some 8000 years ago. These people were Celtic-speaking as can be established from their graves, cremation urns and ancient burial grounds.
A Roman camp was established near St Andrews in 52 AD. From that date the Romans were continually in conflict with the local Picts until they left Scotland at the end of the third century.
At the beginning of the ninth century, Celtic speaking holy men known as Culdees, affiliated to the Roman Church, arrived in St Andrews. Around the year 870, Constantine II built a church for the Culdees (now known as Blessed Mary of the Rock) and later Constantine III became their Abbot until his death in St Andrews in 952. For many years the Culdees had a significant impact on St Andrews society. However, their influence subsided as the power of the monarchy in feudal Scotland began to align itself against the church.
The bringing of the relics of the Apostle St Andrew to Kilrymont is attributed to a religious figure known as St Rule, or St Regulus, a Greek monk. As a result, the place became known as St Andrews, and during the Middle Ages, developed into a prominent religious centre for pilgrims.
The land around the monastery of Kilrymont stretching south from St Andrews to Boarhills was known as "the run of the royal wild boar", and to this day the Coat of Arms of the Community Council contains a wild boar.
By the year 975 the diocese of St Andrews was expanded and the Bishop of St Andrews was appointed the senior bishop in Scotland.
During the reign of King Malcolm III (aka 'Great Chief') (reigned 1058 - 93) a new church was built at St Andrews the remnants of which are known as St Rule's Tower.
Around the year 1160, St Andrews Cathedral (the largest ever built in Scotland; it took nearly 150 years to complete) was founded. The Cathedral was consecrated with King Robert the Bruce (aka 'The Good') (reigned 1306-1229) in attendance on 5th July 1318. Sadly, the Cathedral suffered the ravages of a great fire in 1378, then in 1409 it suffered sever damage in a violent storm. For hundreds of years, St Andrews Cathedral remained a centre of pilgrimage. Pilgrims came in search of a cure for illness, atonement for their sins, or to worship at the shrine of the Apostle and Martyr. It was inevitable that St Andrew should then become Patron Saint of Scotland.
The Protestant Reformation in Scotland found a focus in St Andrews and the Cathedral saw; much desecration and vandalism; burning at the stake of martyrs by its outer walls; and ultimately serious dilapidation. A memorial to these martyrs can be seen at the Martyrs Monument on the Scores on the east side of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
On the 14th June 1559, at the end of a public speech by John Knox (1510-1572) a mob descended on the Cathedral "to purge the kirk and break down the altars and images and all kind of idolatrie..." This calamitous event ended four hundred years of worship and saw the Cathedral degenerate into a ruinous state. However, the ruins of the Cathedral have remained to this day, as a consecrated site of the medieval church.
The Bishops of St Andrews now required a new place of residence and to this end; St Andrews Castle was built on the Cathedral site in 1200. The Castle also was subjected to many sieges and deeds of notoriety. During one such siege the Castle was severely damaged by cannon fire directed from the towers of the Cathedral and St Salvator's church. However, although the Castle was rebuilt, it was later seized in 1559 by the Protestant reformers.
During this period of unrest, the peripheral streets and wynds of the town were blocked by ports or gates. An example can still be seen at the West Port on South Street.
On 28 August 1413, the University of St Andrews was established when a series of Papal Bulls issued by Pope Benedict XIII conferred full University status. Sometime later, the three colleges of St Salvator's (1450), St Leonard's (1512) and St Mary's (1537) were included to create the collegiate form we recognise today.
Around 1150, Bishop Robert with the permission of King David I, (aka 'The Saint') (reigned 1124-1153) conferred the status of burgh on St Andrews. Then in 1614 it was made a Burgh of Regality and later, in 1620 James VI pronounced it a Royal Burgh.
St. Andrews Today
The Lammas Fair, held in the town on the 2nd Monday and Tuesday in August is the last remaining annual fair of five fairs which were held in medieval times.
Mary Queen of Scots visited St Andrews in 1562 when she stayed in a house on South Street. That house, now known as Queen Mary's House, was later converted for use as a library by St Leonard's School.
Nowadays, tourists flock to St Andrews to glimpse the inheritance bequeathed by the Culdees, the Archbishops, the Kings and Queens of Scotland and by Provost Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair (1786 - 1861) the renowned town planner, who left an indelible imprint on the townâ€™s landscape. They are also attracted by the impressive University buildings, quadrangles and chapels of Scotland's oldest University.
But perhaps they mainly come to soak up the atmosphere of St Andrews, the Home of Golf, and to play on the â€˜hallowed turfâ€™ of the famous old links of the Old Course where many a famous golfer has trod.