St Rule’s church is thought to date from the times of Robert, Prior of Scone, who was brought to St Andrews by King Alexander I in 1123, and outdates St Andrews’s Cathedral. Its 30 metre (100 feet) tall tower drew pilgrims to the shrine of St Andrews.
The building originally is believed to have consisted of the tower, a rectangular chancel to the east and a semi-circular apse beyond. Around 1140, another section was added to the east of the chancel, and a nave added to the west of the tower.
According to legend, St Rule was a monk in Patras (Greece). Warned by an angel that Emperor Constantine was planning to take St Andrew’s relics to Constantinople, St Rule took them and fled. Finally, in 347, he became shipwrecked at Muckross near St Andrews. The relics consisted of three fingers of the right hand, the upper bone of an arm, a kneecap and a tooth.
Today, St Rule’s tower stands very close to the east end of the nave of St Andrew’s Cathedral. Although once shadowed by St Andrew’s Cathedral’s central tower, St Rule’s Tower is now the tallest surviving structure on the cathedral site. Visitors can climb the tower for spectacular views over St Andrews, the harbour and the Cathedral grounds.
Inside the tower are 156 steps, which lead to the open terrace, 33 metres above. Through the entrance a tight metal staircase leads to a set of intramural stairs, which lead to one of the narrower stone spiral staircases found in Scotland. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as Arbroath, to the north of the River Tay.
Entry tokens can be purchased from the visitor centre within the Cathedral grounds.
- Information sign at St Rule’s Tower
- St Andrews Castle, Cathedral and Historic Burgh: Official Souvenir Guide