A Map of Saintly Place-names in Europe


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Virtually every profession has a patron saint (1), but not so cartography (2). That’s a shame, because that was going to be my intro into this map, showing the distribution of towns and cities in Europe whose name starts with Saint (or the equivalent in the local languages).

The topography of saintliness varies greatly throughout Europe. The data, collected from the databases of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency by Polish infographic producers Biqdata, shows 20,808 such places across the continent. Here is the run-down per country:

France, now a beacon of ‘laïcité’ – the French version of secularism – in previous centuries prided itself on being ‘la fille ainée de l’église’ (the oldest daughter of the church). And its Christian heritage still shows in the sheer number of saintly place-names, from Saint-Denis and Saint-Cloud near Paris to Saint-Brieuc in Brittany and Saint-Laurent-du-Var in the Provence.

No less than 43% of the European total of ‘Saint(e)’ names occurs in France, with areas of higher density in Normandy, and the Loire and Rhône valleys. The north, northeast and southwest seem to have been less touched by holy topography.

Runner-up, by about half of the French total, is Spain. With 4,444 ‘San’ or ‘Santa’ topographies, it represents 21.5% of the European total. But here the regional distribution is more skewed than in France, or any other country for that matter: most of Spain is actually fairly saint-name-free, except for a smaller concentration in northeast Catalonia, and a massive communion of saintly red dots in Galicia.

That northwest corner of Spain is also home to Santiago de Compostela, a destination for pilgrims from all over Europe from the early medieval period onward. Which may explain the extraordinary concentration of saintly place names in that region.

With 2,638 cities and towns named after saints, Italy ranks third on the list (12.7% of the European total)….

Marcela
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Marcela

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COO @oneqube | Angel Investor | Proud mom | Advisor @TheTutuProject | Let's Go #NYRangers
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