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The Martyrdom of St. Andrew in the South English Legendary (c. 1270-80)


1 Our Lord Himself, and no other, converted him to the Christian faith

2 Lines 7-9: And followed Him on account of His words, and they did not choose amiss. / They were better off doing this (i.e., following Jesus) than doodling about by the sea, for sure. / While our Lord was on earth, both [of them] were with Him

3 The wife of Egeas the proconsul was also made a Christian by Andrew

4 who has gone around for a long time

5 You shall [do so] never again

6 Lines 28-30: in every respect (lit., however it should befall). / For the God you tell of, the Jews one time seized (Him) / And slew Him, as He deserved (lit., as He was worthy), with a perfectly just sentence

7 Time and place and every detail, as we could afterwards see

8 "I will hearken," said this other, "but unless you do as I say["]

9 "If I were afraid," said this other,"I would not preach about it at all["]

10 "Andrew," he said, "I very much hope that you have changed your mind["]

11 "You wicked fellow," said Saint Andrew, "you hunt in vain["]

12 Lines 61-62: I am more afraid for you than me, for my pain won't last / But (i.e., more than) a day or two here, or three at the most

13 [To] scourge Saint Andrew so, that each of his bones would ache

14 Lines 75-76: Because you were permitted to be sanctified with my Lord's limbs / And with precious gems (see explanatory note)

15 They bound fast both [his] feet and hands to the cross

16 And they wanted to tear him (the judge, Aegeas) apart unless he took him (Andrew) down at once

17 When [the] men wished to take him down, it seemed to them he grew high up (lit., waxed on high)

18 Yet the justice would not believe anything that he (Andrew) had taught him


Abbreviations: A = Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 43 (SC 6924), fols. 199r-200v [base text]; D = Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 463 (SC 1596), fols. 124v-126r; H = British Library MS Harley 2277, fols. 174v-176r, 176v.

1-7 In the gospels there are several conflicting versions of the calling of Andrew. This simple version, implying that Jesus called Andrew and Peter once and they followed him immediately, is based on Matthew 4:18-19 (also Mark 1:16-17; compare the same incident in Luke 5:10-11, where Andrew is not mentioned). The single calling is also reflected in some surviving late medieval English liturgies, e.g., in one from thirteenth-century Winchester, The Monastic Breviary of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, ed. Tolhurst, 4.392-395v, where the gospel for the day is the passage from Matthew. The SEL-poet's rather distinctive phrasing at line 7, And siwede Him with this word, may echo that of one of the sung responses and versicles (Mox ut vocem . . . audivit . . . Ad unius iussionis vocem . . .) and the beginning of the gospel homily commonly preached at the night office for Andrew's feast day: Audistis fratres karissimi quia ad unius iussionis uocem petrus et andreas relictis retibus secuti sunt redemptorem, ("You have heard, dearest brothers, that with a single sentence of command [lit., the word of one order] Peter and Andrew dropped their nets and followed the Redeemer" - Monastic Breviary, ed. Tolhurst, 4.394v). In LA (trans. Ryan, 1.13), on the other hand, it is explained, in typically scholastic fashion, that the gospels contain three different callings of Andrew, each involving a different kind of vocation: those in Matthew and Luke (which LA"edits" to include Andrew) and that in John 1:35-42, in which Andrew is said to have been originally a disciple of John the Baptist.

5 cometh. Imperative plural of come(n).

11 Patras is not a lond but a city in the portion of central Greece formerly known as Achaia, west of Athens on the southern shore of the Gulf of Corinth. The city of Corinth was the Roman provincial capital, where Paul preached and founded an important Christian community. But although the apocryphal Acts of Andrew claim that he performed miracles and converted people there, Paul makes no mention of Andrew in his two epistles to the Corinthians. Nor is there is any reliable historical evidence that Andrew ever preached in Patras or died there, as was widely asserted throughout the Middle Ages (according to a more conservative early Christian tradition, he is said to have taken Scythia as his missionary province - Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.1; trans. Williamson, p. 65).

11-14 Although there is some evidence later (see explanatory note to lines 93-94) that the poet was familiar with a somewhat fuller tradition, here at the beginning of the story the ME poet seems to be following the highly abridged LA account of the miracles. Since Ryan's translation (1.16) does not follow the Latin closely here, we provide our own:
So blessed Andrew settled in Achaia, and filled the whole region with churches, and converted (conuertit) many people to the Christian faith. Also (quoque) he taught (docuit) the Christian faith to the wife of Ægeas the proconsul and gave her second birth in the sacred font of baptism (trans. from LA, ed. Maggioni, 1.28).
In the Passio Andreae (BHL 428) at this point there is no mention of Andrew's church-building or of the proconsul's wife (later identified as Maximilla). SEL also echoes some of the wording of LA: compare conuertit with turnde (line 12), quoque with also (line 14), and docuit with teighte (line 13).

18 torment. The principal medieval Latin versions say that the proconsul ordered or began to compel the Achaians to revert to paganism (compare LA:"As soon as the proconsul heard this [i.e., that his wife was a convert] he came into the town of Patras and commanded the Christians to sacrifice to the idols. Then Andrew came to meet him" - trans. Ryan, 1.16). Only the SEL-poet specifies the use of torture: his tendency to intensify emotion and violence in his legends is commonly noted by modern critics.

19-22 Andrew in SEL is more belligerent and wittier than his Latin counterparts. Compare the equivalent passage in LA:"You have earned the right to judge men on earth. Now what you ought to do is recognize your judge who is in heaven, worship him, and turn completely away from false gods" (trans. Ryan, 1.16). In general the dialogue that follows in SEL is not only racier and more colloquial in tone, but much abridged in comparison with the Latin versions, in which one can see clearly the didactic intent to justify Jesus' passive acceptance of crucifixion. The proconsul, in other words, is the Latin authors' token skeptic.

54-56 SEL here seems to follow not LA, but the older Latin legend ("Acts and Martyrdom," p. 513) or one of the breviary redactions in having Ægeas attempt to sway Andrew with an offer of friendship and preferment as the alternative to torture and suffering. In LA (trans. Ryan, 1.17), by contrast, the proconsul begins the morning audience immediately in a brusque and threatening manner. See above, Introduction.

57-64 Andrew's speech here is a conflation of two separate speeches in Passio Andreae. In the poem lines 61-64 (for which there is no equivalent in LA) correspond closely to the Latin:"For I am afflicted about thy destruction, and I am not disturbed about my own suffering. For my suffering takes up a space of one day or two at the most; but thy torment for endless ages [lit., for thousands of years] shall never come to a close" ("Acts and Martyrdom," trans. Roberts and Donaldson, 8.513).

67-71 Compare LA: "Aegeus commanded twenty-one men to seize him, flog him, and bind him hand and foot to a cross, so as to make his agony last longer" (trans. Ryan, 1.17). The poet's account depends closely on LA here, including the brief rationale for binding rather than nailing (i.e., to delay death and prolong suffering), but not for the somewhat confusing detail about more . . . blode (line 69).

72 The phrase tuei enden here, along with line 84 ("both his hands above his head"), clearly envisages not the familiar t-shaped cross (crux immissa) associated with the crucifixion of Jesus, but the x-shaped variety (crux decussata) found in late medieval depictions of Andrew's martyrdom: e.g., in Jean Fouquet's Heures d'Etienne Chevalier (reproduced in Mâle, Les saints compagnons du Christ, p. 131). The Scottish flag is a white x-shaped cross on a blue background. The only hint of this in Passio Andreae is the statement that Andrew was not nailed to the cross but bound hand and foot to it"as if he were stretched out on the rack" (quasi in eculeo tenderetur - ed. Lipsius and Bonnet, 2.23-24), implying that his hands are above his head rather than stretched out to either side. Depictions of the"decussate" cross appear as early as the tenth century.

74-80 The SEL-poet's version of these lyrical lines is difficult to punctuate with certainty and may be corrupted, although it is obviously based on the following passage from LA:"Hail, o cross, you who were consecrated [dedicata] by the body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as with pearls. . . . I come to you, therefore, free from care and rejoicing, so that you may joyfully receive me, the disciple of him who hung from you; for always I was your lover and desired to embrace you. O good cross, you who have been endowed with honor and beauty from the Lord's limbs! Long desired, earnestly loved, constantly sought after, and now made ready for my longing heart, take me from among men and return me to my master, so that he may accept me through you, for through you he redeemed me" (ed. Maggioni, 1.31; our trans.).

93-94 The idea that Andrew's body "grew," i.e., was raised out of the reach of the soldiers, seems to be original with the SEL-poet. The Latin legends merely tell how the soldiers' arms grew stiff and immobile when they tried to take him off the cross.

106 Andrew's body was said to have been translated from Patras to Constantinople during the reign of the emperor Constantius, c. 361. The SEL-poet does not mention the supposed translation of part of the body to St. Andrews in Scotland (see Introduction).

109 See below, I(b), for the Three Questions story from ScL.


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes.

1 Wherever possible, the caesuras in the text follow those marked in A.

6 Manfischeres. So A. D: mannesfisshers.

23 "Wat, artou Andreu," quath the Justise. A: Wat artou quath the Iustise Andreu. We adopt H's word order here as the less awkward.

31 sire. So A. H: certes.

32 Thoru His wille. So A. H: thurf godes wille. D: with is gode wille.

33 hit. So H. A: he.

39 understode. So A. H: ri3t vnderstode.

40 holi. So A. H: swete holi.

45 ileveth. So A. H: luueth.

50 ever. So A. H: herie.

71 brode. So A. H: gode. A's brode is more vivid, but H's gode makes for a better rhyme: ME open o, as in brod (from OE brād), would not normally rhyme with ME close o, as in rode (from OE rōd).

77 wel glad ich. So H. A: wel ich.

88 have to-drawe, anon bote he. So A. H: alto drawe anon; bote he (as printed in DM 2.545). Both versions make good sense, but A's meter, with the caesura immediately after to-drawe, is abnormal, yielding three beats in the first half line and four in the second, instead of the regular four and three, as in H (see above, pp. 15-16).

93 wex. So A. H: was.

99 In order to make sense, levede must be construed as the participle dependent, like iwend, on was. Other manuscripts (e.g., H and D) read bileuede, remained.

100-01 These lines are in reverse order in A and H, but in H they are marked to follow the present order, as printed by DM. Other manuscripts agree with this order against A and H.

104 kende. So A. H: sende.

105 hollich. So A. H: heƷe.






















Seynt Andreu the apostel was Seint Petres brother.
Our Lord Sulf to Cristendom him broughte, and non other.1
Vor fischeres hi were bothe; and as hi fischede adai
Bi the se, our Lord com and hor fischinge isay.
"Cometh," He sede, "after me and ich you wole make
Manfischeres," and this other hor nettes gonne vorsake,
And siwede Him with this word and ne chose noght amys. 2
Hem was so betere then to pasken bi the se water, iwis.
Wule our Lord an erthe was myd Him bothe were
And seththe hi wende aboute wide, Cristendom to lere.
In the lond of Patras Seint Andreu seththe com;
He turnde ther wel faste that folc to Cristendom.
Chirchen he rerede al aboute and teighte men therto.
Egeas wyf the Justice he makede cristene also,3
Thervore the Justice was wroth and wende to Patras,
To the cité in gret wraththe, as Seint Andreu was.
Cristene men that he ther fond sone he let hem take,
To make hem with his torment Cristendom vorsake.
Seint Andreu sone to him com: "Sire," he sede, "nym yeme,
Thou that ert so gret Justice, seli men to deme.
The heie Justice of Hevene thou haddest neode to knowe,
That into the put of Helle thee schal deme wel lowe."
"Wat, artou Andreu," quath the Justise, "that moni dai hath igo4
And idrawe men to thi false God? Thou neschalt nevereft mo."5
"Ich drawe men," quath Seint Andreu, "to the God that soth is,
Ac wrecches and false youre beth and deve and dombe, iwis."
"Wi saistou?" quath the Justise, "thou wost wel myd alle
That thou therof loude liest, hou mighte it so falle.
Vor the God that thou of tellest the Giwes wile nome
And slowe Him, as He worthé was, mid pur right of dome."6
"Nai, sire," quath Seint Andreu, "right was hit noght:
Thoru His wille, ous to bugge, He was to dethe ibroght."
"Hou mighte hit be," quath the Justise, "that His wille was therto?
Vor the Giwes Him with strengthe nome and Him slowe so."
"Ich wot to sothe," quath Seint Andreu, "agen His wille it nas.
Vor ich was mid Him thulke tyme and isé hou it was.
For er wel longe He tolde ous fore hou it scholde be,
Tyme and stude and everich poynt, as we mighte seththe isé.7
Gif thou woldest that sothe ihure, and yif thou understode,
Gret vertu ich wole thee telle of the holi Rode."
"Ich wole herkny," quath this other, "ac bote thou do after me,8
In the rode as thi Lord deide ich wole sette thee."
"Gif ich doutede," quath this other, "I ne prechede therof noght,9
Ac theron is al myn hope, my joie, and al my thoght."
"This thou might telle," quath the Justice, "men that ileveth thee,
And vor Inele thee ileve noght other thing thou shalt telle me.
Bote thou bileve on oure godes, mighti of alle thinge,
In the rode that thou of spext to dethe men schal thee bringe."
"Almighti God," quath this other, "ich herie night and dai.
Ich bileve on Him and ever wole, wile ich speke may."
The Justise was tho wroth inough. Seint Andreu he let caste
In strong prison, and he lai ther the wule it ilaste.
As the Justice sat amorwe in his sige, to him he was ibroght.
"Andreu," he sede, "ich opie wel that thou be bet bithoght,10
And that thou have fram folie thi thoght iturnd to nyght,
To lyvie with ous in joye gret and leve thin unright."
"Thou luther bern," quath Seint Andreu, "thou hontest aboute noght.11
The more torment thou me dost the gladdere is mi thoght.
Vor the more turmentz that ich thole her for mi Lord, er ich deie,
The more worth mi joye with Him in the blisse of Hevene heie.
Ich doute more of thee then of me, vor mi pyne nele ileste
Bote o dai other tweie her, other threo ate meste.12
Ac the turment that thou schalt have, warto thou schalt wende,
In tuenti thousend yer ne mo ne worth ibroght to ende."
Tho was the Justice swithe wroth he het is men anon
Seint Andreu scourgi so, that him oke ech bon13
And seththe bynde him honde and fot to the rode vaste
With stronge cordes, vor is lif scholde the lengore ilaste
And he the more in pyne be and the more scede of his blode.
The tormentors wel inough his heste understode:
Anon to the bon hi bete him verst with stronge scourges and brode.
Into the erthe hi pulten faste the tuei enden of the rode.
Tho Seint Andreu isey the rode adoun he sat akné:
"Hail beo thou swete rode," he sede, "suetest of alle tre,
That thou of my Loverdes lymes ihalwed moste be
And of gymmes precious.14 Wel glad ich thee isé
And wel glad ich come to thee, wel glad afoung thou me,
Vor evere seththe mi Loverdes deth iwilned ich have thee.
Nym me nou al fram this men, to mi Lord thou most me sende.
For al myn hope and my wille is thoru thee to Him wende."
Tho he strupte of himsulf his clothes ate bigynnyngge,
And bitok the tormentors that scholde him to dethe bringe.
Vaste bothe vet and honde to the croiz hi bounde,15
The honden beie above the heved, the fet toward the grounde.
That folc com thicke aboute him, he gan to prechi faste,
Twei dawes and twei nyght, the wile his lif ilaste.
That folc thretnede the Justise and thicke aboute him come
And wolde him have to-drawe, anon bote he him adoun nome.16
The Justice him wolde nyme adoun, Seint Andreu him vorbed.
"Inele noght," he sede, "come adoun er than ich be ded.
Vor ich isé mi suete Lord, and yer wile ich isei,
That abit vorte ich to Him come. He is her wel ney."
Wen me wolde him nyme adoun, hem thoghte he wex anhey,17
No mon mighte him areche vor upard he stei.
Hor armes wen hi upard reighte bicome as stif as tre.
So gret light ther com him aboute that no man mighte him isé.
Hi hurde him and ne seye him noght. That light laste iwis
Vorte the holi soule wende therwith to Hevene blis.
Tho the soule was forth iwend and the holi bodi levede there,
Maximille the Justice wif and other that ther were
With gret honur hi it neme adoun and to burynge bere,
Yut nolde the Justice ileve noght that he gan him lere.18
Therfore amidde the wei, as he hamward wende,
He fel ded byvore the men and his soule to helle kende.
Ac Seint Andreu was seththe hollich ilad iwis
To the lond of Constantinople ther as it yut is.
Swithe glad that lond is that he evere ther com.
In thisse manere Seint Andreu tholede martirdom.
(see note); (t-note)

For; they; one day
sea; their; saw
I will make you; (see note)
these others; forsook; (t-note)

afterwards; went; teach
(see note)
built; taught (i.e., brought)

at once; had them arrested
(see note)
take care; (see note)
wretched; [how you] judge


are your [gods]; deaf
knowest; all along

Through; buy (redeem); (t-note)
by force

[at] that very time; saw
long before; in advance

hear; (t-note)
Cross; (t-note)

On; where

can; believe; (t-note)
because I will not
speakest of
while; (t-note)
then; had [him] thrown
while it (i.e., night?) lasted
next day; throne
(see note)
last night
leave; give up your wrongdoing
(see note)

suffer; before
shall be

where; are going
or more; will not be
ordered; immediately

fast (tightly); (see note)
so that; longer

first; (t-note)
drove; two ends; (see note)
When; on his knees
Hail to thee; trees; (see note)

gladly I see thee
receive; (t-note)
since; desired
Take; these; must
to go to Him through you
stripped off
handed [his clothes] to

both; head

take; forbade
I do not want; before
a while ago I saw [Him]
abides until
(see note); (t-note)
reach; upward he ascended

They heard; lasted
When; departed; left; (t-note)
they took it down; bore [it]

in the middle of the road
took its way; (t-note)
But; taken in a holy manner; (t-note)
where it (i.e., Andrew's body) still is; (see note)

[The SEL Miracle of the Three Questions, lines 109-236, is omitted; see Scottish Legendary version.]
Nou bidde we Seint Andreu that he ous so wisse
And bidde vor ous, that we come to Hevene blisse.
                guide us in such a way

Go To St. Andrew and the Three Questions Introduction
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