Saint Andrew (Sant’Andrea) – holy apostle with a centuries-old visit in the Eternal City

The Martyrdom of St. Andrew in the apse of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte

The Martyrdom of St. Andrew in the apse of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte

Several churches, numerous pedestals and just as many paintings in Rome, are devoted to Saint Andrew. It is worth pondering what this long-lasting popularity, of this particular companion of Christ, can be attributed to, even though the Gospel mentions him only three times.
The Martyrdom of St. Andrew in the apse of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte
Statue of St. Andrew, François Duquesnoy, Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano
Frescos depicting the torture and burial of St. Andrew, apse of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Burial of St. Andrew, fresco in the apse of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea dell Valle
Preparation for the torture of St. Andrew, fresco in the apse of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Statue of St. Andrew, Camillo Rusconi, Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano
Façade of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Façade of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte
Jesuit Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
Sant’Andrea Oratory at the Church of San Gregorio Magno
The Crucifixion of St. Andrew in the main altar of the Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
The Martyrdom of St. Andrew in the apse of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte
Frescos in the apse of the Church of San Saba, Christ with St. Andrew and St. Sabbas (XVI century)
Scenes from the life of St. Andrew, frescos – Domenichino at the finish of the apse of the Church of Sant’Andrea della  Valle
Statue of St. Andrew in the façade of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle
St. Andrew and St. John the Baptist, Paolo Veneziano (end of XVI century) Museo Nazionale d’Arte Antica – Palazzo  Barberini
St. Lawrence and St. Andrew (on the right), Bernardino di Mariotto, Museo Nazionale d'Arte Antica – Palazzo  Barberini
The Martyrdom of St. Andrew, Giacinto Brandi (end of XVII century) chapel in the Church of Santa Maria in Via Lata
Sant’Andrea Oratory at the Church of San Gregorio Magno, Domenichino, The Martyrdom of St. Andrew
Sant’Andrea Oratory – Guido Reni, St. Andrew Being Led to his Martyrdom
Sant’Andrea Oratory, main altar, Pomarancio (Cristoforo Roncalli), Madonna and Child with St. Andrew and  St. Gregory
The Crucifixion of St. Andrew in the main altar of the Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
The Glory of St. Andrew in the sacristy of the Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
Several churches, numerous pedestals and just as many paintings in Rome, are devoted to Saint Andrew. It is worth pondering what this long-lasting popularity, of this particular companion of Christ, can be attributed to, even though the Gospel mentions him only three times.
He was the brother of the most important apostle for Rome – St. Peter (Simon) and along with him belonged to a group of Christ’s disciples which was called the earliest. Just as Simon, Andrew was a fisherman, a devout Jew waiting for the coming of the Messiah. He came from Bethesda on the Lake of Gennesaret.

       
Information about St. Andrew, can mainly be obtained from apocrypha, vividly recounting all, that is not in the Bible. They say, that after the death of Christ, Andrew began his missionary activity – according to some in the Caucasus and the Black Sea, according to others between the Danube and Don, in Asia Minor (Cappadocia), while according to still others in Greece.  It is there in the city of Patras, where in 65 or 70 A.D. he died a martyr’s death, and it is his suffering that was preserved in Christian iconography. Andrew bound to a cross in the shape of the letter X, prepared for death or buried by the faithful – these are the motifs which are most often called upon in painting and sculpture of the Catholic Church.
The way he was crucified is significant in itself – he was tied to the cross with ropes, so his suffering was supposed to be extensive and serve as a warning to others. Despite all that, in paintings St. Andrew’s face as well as his body are a picture of calmness, almost as if the vision of eternal life would provide this tranquility and give him consolation. Thanks to Christ’s intercession, his suffering did not last very long, although while at the cross he was still preaching, as the apocrypha say. At some point he was enveloped in light, which was unequivocal with ascension. Apocrypha mention the joy with which the martyr accepted the shape of the cross – since the letter X corresponds to the first letter of the Greek word Christos. 

Saint Andrew enjoyed particular popularity in the Eastern Church, which was contributed to by the place of his martyrdom – the aforementioned city of Patras. The saint’s relics were placed in Constantinople by 357 A.D. The patriarchs of the city believed themselves to be his continuators and successors and believed the city of Constantinople to be an apostolic city.  At times of the Fourth Crusade Andrew’s remains were stolen by the crusaders and taken to Amalfi near Naples. However, by the XV century the apostle’s head, as a relic of particular worship, was transferred to Rome, where it was placed in  the Vatican Basilica (San Pietro in Vaticano), in a pier supporting the dome. The magnificent, monumental figure of the saint which decorates the interior of the basilica was sculpted in 1633 by François Duqesnoy. A similarly monumental statue was completed in the same century in the Basilica of St. John in Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano) by another outstanding artist Camillo Rusconi.




So in this way Rome, through the location of relics, in saint Andrew obtained another important, after Peter, apostle, and besides that in its rivalry with the Eastern Church, later the Orthodox Church, could boast having his remains, which was a treasure of great value indeed. His increased popularity can be noticed in the XVII century, when in the face of Reformation, the Catholic Church intensified the propaganda of his cult – not only his of course, but also that of many early Christian martyrs (cult of the martyrs). The more Reformation ridiculed the belief in miracles and the apocryphal character of stories about saints, the more Catholics underlined their importance. Art co-created this vision of unconditional faith, while apostle Andrew was a perfect fit in this trend of Roman, but also European art. 
 
The oldest, no longer existing church devoted to this saint – Sant’Andrea Catabarbara – was erected in Rome as early as the V century thanks to pope Simplicius. It slowly came to ruin, so that by the XV century there was virtually nothing left, apart from imposing marble slabs kept in museums (Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo and Musei Capitolini). However, two centuries later, Andrew became the patron saint of one of the largest and greatest Roman churches – Sant’Andrea della Valle. Further important churches in the city include the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte completed in the XVII century and finally the smallest, but from an artistic point of view the most elaborate – commemorating the Pamphilj family and Pope Innocent X the Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale.
 
It is also essential to see the small Oratory of Sant’Andrea found on the Caelian Hill, by the Church of San Gregorio Magno. In its intimate interior we can find scenes of St. Andrew’s martyrdom, painted by two noteworthy and competing Baroque painters – Domenichino and Guido Reni.
 
An interesting fact is that in 1964 the Catholic Church returned St Andrew’s relics to the Orthodox Church – they were returned to Patras, the place of his martyrdom, in this way ending the posthumous wandering of the saint with a centuries-old stopover in Rome.