St Andrews is the site of a religious settlement of great antiquity and was originally known as Kinrimund or Kilrimont, meaning ‘the head of the king’s mount’. The first community was probably established near the headland on which St Mary Kirkheugh now stands.
Kinrimund came to enjoy a very high prestige as a religious centre. Constantine, King of Scots (900-c943), chose to abdicate in order that he could become abbot of the community of religious men known as Celi De (Culdees) here. By this time Kinrimund had probably been recognised as the organisational headquarters of the Scottish Church, after Norse raids had made both Iona and Dunkeld unsuitable for that role. Bishops who were evidently the heads of the whole Scottish Church began to appear on record here from around the 10th century.
St Andrews acquired its current name because of the existence of relics, believed to be that of the apostle. However, the medieval legends which grew up around those relics make it difficult to establish exactly how they came to be in St Andrews. The most famous legend, which emerged around the 11th century, is that they were brought to Scotland by St Rule. It is thought that this story may have been developed to support St Andrews’ claims of supremacy over the Scottish Church, although it is possible that in the figure of St Rule there was some folk memory of a Celtic religious man who was regarded as the founder of Kinrimund.
Another legend tells that the relics were acquired around 732 when Acca, Bishop of Hexham, was driven from his diocese and came to live in Pictland. Hexham had claimed to possess parts of the saint’s body, which were said to have been obtained in Rome by St Wilfred.
- Information signs at St Andrews Cathedral
- Official Souvenir Guide: St Andrews Castle, Cathedral and Historic Burgh