The map of holy places in Europe

Autor: Szymon Pifczyk, Marcin Gębala, Aleksander Deryło, Bartosz Chyż | 29.02.2016

Watching a comedy „The Troops of St. Tropez” with Louis de Funès or reading gossips about celebrities in Sankt Moritz, we rarely think of meanings of those two towns’ names bear. The former means Saint Torpes and the latter - Saint Maurice. And there is a whole lot more of places with „holiness” in Europe.

They are scattered unevenly across the continent and there are countries and regions with definitely higher concentration of holiness than others. We have searched the names of cities, towns and villages of Europe, using the database of the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and looking for places with „saint” or „holy” in their names.

We have found 20,808 of such places. Most of them - 8,963 - in France, famous for its secularity. Although it is easy to guess, that replacing ancient names very often originating from a history of a thousand years could have pushed back. There are two other Roman countries in the top three positions of our ranking of „holiness” - Spain and Italy, each with a significantly smaller amount of holy places.

The sheer numbers could be boring for some, so let’s take a look at the map. As you can see Spain has less saint places than France but at the same time in Galicia, the northwest part of the country, the concentration of holiness is the highest in the old continent.

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And what about the UK and Ireland? According to NGA there are 327 and 34 saint places respectively in these two countries. Ireland, often perceived as a country of stronг Catholic tradition, on the map comes as a surprise.

The United Kingdom, it turns out, is less secular than you may have thought.

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