Patron saint of England, with a feast day on April 23. Although there is no historical record of his existence, he was venerated from at least the 6C as a soldier who had been one of the early martyrs. His killing of the dragon to rescue a maiden is a medieval invention. *Edward III made him patron saint of the Order of the *Garter, which is probably why he began to be thought of as England’s saint and to feature prominently in the *mummers’ plays. His emblem of a red cross on a white ground became one of the three constituent parts of the *Union Jack. In 1969 the Vatican, with a greater regard for historical truth than for English sensibilities, removed him from the official calendar of saints.
(5th century AD)
Patron saint of Ireland with a feast day on March 17. Born somewhere on the west coast of Britain, he was captured at the age of 16 by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. Six years later he escaped, but returned to preach the gospel, establishing his headquarters at *Armagh and making Ireland the firm base from which Christianity later spread back through England and into northern Europe. He wrote two short works which are unusual for the period in being accepted now as wholly authentic.
Confessio (Confession) is his spiritual autobiography, and Epistola (Letter) a protest against the ill-treatment of Irish Christians by the soldiers of an invading British chieftain. There are many legends about him. One explains the absence of snakes in Ireland (he drove them out); another relates why the shamrock is Ireland’s *emblem, widely worn on St Patrick’s Day (he used its three parts to explain the mystery of the Trinity). The cross of St Patrick is one of the three elements of the *Union Jack.
(1st century AD)
Patron saint of Scotland, with a feast day on November 30. He was one of the twelve apostles and brother of St Peter. Bones said to be his were brought to *St Andrews in Scotland at some time before the 8C, and early medieval tradition asserted that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross at Patras, in Greece. Thus the X-shaped cross became his emblem and is one of the three constituent parts of the *Union Jack, representing Scotland.