Chapter Six

St. Andrews is a town known almost exclusively for its golf. However, it is the site of a castle, a priory with a cathedral and the first university in Scotland. Little remains of the cathedral and castle, but the university is still thriving.

St. Andrews was home to the largest cathedral in Scotland. The Christian community of St. Andrews began no later than the 10th century, and remained strong until the reformation. The cathedral was preceded by St. Rules Church, which was most likely built circa 1130-1150. All that remains from this building is the large central tower. We climbed the hundreds of stairs to the top, to see the magnificent view over the bay and St. Andrews. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, one of the twelve disciples. It is said that St. Rule was entrusted with the keeping of the relics of St. Andrew. The legend says that his boat crashed off the coast and the relics were brought to land and enshrined at St. Andrews. St. Margaret, the 11th century wife of King Malcolm III, was so devoted to St. Andrew that she paid passage for pilgrims to visit his shrine.

The cathedral building program was begun in 1160 but it took many years to complete. The completed building was not consecrated until 1318. Robert the Bruce was in attendance at the ceremony. Little remains of this three story high building. The east and west ends still stand proud, but the outline of the building can only be see in the foundation stones which still show. The reformers heavily attacked this cathedral, as well as the college of St. Mary on the Rock and Dominican Friary. The seeds for reform had been planted in Scotland, that when John Knox gave a stirring sermon in 1559, the congregation was ready to destroy every sign of the popish attributes of the church. Today the grounds are covered with graves of people who have passed from death to life over the centuries.

The castle was not a royal castle, but rather was the residence of the Bishop of St. Andrews. It was smaller than many of the other castles built in the 12th century, but still quite comfortable. It included towers that were used to house prisoners while they awaited trial. The more influential prisoners were given rooms on the upper levels with windows and a bed. The less important prisoners were forced to live in windowless rooms, or even the bottle dungeon, a pit cut out of solid rock. Since the castle was the home of the bishop, it played a prominent role in the reformation and some of the people who were imprisoned there were persecuted over religion. John Knox once said of the pit, “Many of God’s Children were imprisoned here.” The castle remained a catholic stronghold until Cardinal David Beaton burned Protestant George Wishart in 1546. The cardinal was politically involved with the wars between England and Scotland and disapproved of the marriage of Queen Mary to Henry VIII’s son Edward. A group of disgruntled men gained access to the castle and killed the cardinal. John Knox spent some time at the castle when he preached in the parish church. He had the freedom to preach during a lull in fighting, which was broken when the French fleet came to support the fight for the Catholic Church. The Castle defenses were destroyed and the people living within were imprisoned, either in France or on galleys.

One of the most interesting things to visit at this castle is the best example of a military strategy used for destroying the defensive walls. Castles were built with defense in mind. The walls were designed to withstand the strongest weapons of war available at the time. Most wars were not won by sword, but by siege. The enemy would trap the defense inside the walls of the castle. The enemy didn’t waste their energy or supplies on frontal attacks against a strongly built castle. Though the walls protected the people inside, they were unable to get in and out, so they could not restock their supplies. After several months, those within the castle either died of starvation or simply gave up.

The enemy did not simply sit around during this time, however. They still tried to breech the walls of the castle keep. One technique used was called undermining. They would dig a mine underneath the wall. As they were building, they shored up the tunnel with wood supports. When the mine was large enough and properly positioned, they would set fire to the supports and the weight of the castle would cause it to collapse into the mine below. Once the wall was down, it was much easier for the enemy to gain entrance and win the battle. The defense had strategies they used against attacks of undermining. They kept bowls of water near the walls on the ground level of the keep. If they saw ripples in the water, they knew that work was being done underground approaching their wall. They would countermine, and then cause fire to bring down the tunnel supports before the enemy could build the mine large enough to damage their wall.

We were unable to go into the castle because we just did not have the time to see everything we wanted to see. We did notice a few things to mention. There is very little of the castle remaining, just a few walls and parts of the entrance gate. The castle sits right on the coast of St. Andrew’s Bay. We noticed an unusual rectangular structure on the beach. It looked like the foundation of a building. It was a swimming pool. When the tide was high, this pool would fill with water. Then, at low tide, there was a place for people to go swimming.

We walked through the streets of this ancient town and soaked in some of the atmosphere, which is always unique in university towns. We stopped at a small café called Ziggy’s that served up memorabilia of famous musical artists as well as a delicious portion of lunch right down to the hot fudge sundae. Then headed in the direction of Bruce’s purpose for visiting St. Andrews.

The origins of golf are not know, however it is likely that the game began in the middle ages, and definitely on the eastern coast of Scotland. The first written record of the game was in 1457 when James II suggested that the game should be banned because the defense of the country was frustrated by the lack of competent archers. James III and IV made similar charges. Mary Queen of Scots played golf. In the 18th century, golfing societies were formed, and rules were established so that the game would remain consistent from one group to the next. The Royal and Ancient was instituted in 1744. The old course at St. Andrews had been before then. The rotation of holes was clockwise, rather than counterclockwise as it is today. Bruce’s goal was to stand on the first tee.

To play on the Old Course of St. Andrews, a person must have a certain handicap. This is the course used for the British Open, one of the most important golf tournaments in the world. The 129th playing of this tournament is set to begin on July 20. The favourite is Tiger Woods of American, but with more than seventy of the world’s best golfers, you can never guess the outcome. The course was being prepared for this event while we were visiting, so tents were under construction and greens were being perfected. Bruce was not allowed onto the course itself, be we managed a picture of him just feet from the tee, with the Clubhouse at his back. We were able to walk on the path, which crosses the first and eighteenth fairways, which lie side by side near the Clubhouse. It is amazing to see how close these holes sit in reality, when on the television they look so large and distant.

Chapter Seven

Chapter One - Chapter Two - Chapter Three - Chapter Four
Chapter Five - Chapter Six - Chapter Eight - Chapter Nine

More Pictures from Scotland

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