The Hradetzky Organ and Patrick Hamilton

At the time of the previously mentioned siege of St Andrews Castle in the 16th century, the tower of St Salvator’s Chapel in North Street did not have a stone steeple. The flat surface therefore served as a conveniently sited elevated platform for the attacking French force, commanded by the Italian Leone Strozzi, to locate their cannon used to bombard the castle and breach its defences.

A prominent position within the chapel is occupied by the Hradetzky organ, installed in 1974. It is widely regarded as one of the finest instruments of its kind in Scotland. The organ was made by Gerhard Hradetzky in the village of Oberbergern in Lower Austria and contains over 3,000 pipes. Its striking colours reputedly represent the red gowns worn by undergraduate students in St Andrews and the grey stone of the surrounding buildings.

Hradetzky organ

Outside the chapel, beneath the tower, the initials PH are set into the cobbles, marking the site at which the Protestant reformer Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake for his beliefs in 1528. (Student tradition suggests that treading on the initials will result in failure in the final exams.) Patrick Hamilton developed extensive contacts with reformist figures in Europe and was influenced by the views of the German theologian Martin Luther and by the thinking of the Dutch humanist scholar Erasmus.

St Salvator’s tower

It is noteworthy that, unlike many college chapels, St Salvator’s Chapel opened its doors to the street, outside the confines of the college, welcoming the people of the town. Today, this medieval symbolism is reflected in the international nature of the university, welcoming students and academics from all parts of the world. Appropriately, many of these visitors, arriving from across Europe, have done so prior to 2021, thanks to the Erasmus+ educational exchange programme of the European Union, named after the medieval Dutch philosopher whose humanist views helped form the outlook of Patrick Hamilton.

The chapel is open to the public at certain times. Details are available HERE. Access is via the cloister entrance.


Images © University of St Andrews