It has become a popular exercise among various circles to call into question the Christian roots of our country. Part of those roots are the names selected for the places where we live. With regards to U.S. cities, we have both read and heard their names spoken so frequently that we often don’t stop to take the time to consider their origin. But it only takes a quick glance across a map of our nation to see that the names of many of our cities have a strong connection to the Bible and/or Christianity. In fact, the more you look, the more you will find. The naming of these sites was not accidental, nor was it mere coincidence. Ultimately, those who argue against the Christian roots of our country do so in the face of mountains (or cities) of evidence.

One of our country’s most famous and most populous cities is the city Los Angeles, California (“L.A.”). The name means “the Angels” in Spanish, and this city is commonly known to most of the country (and to the world) as “the City of Angels.” It is the number two city in the nation in terms of population, second only to New York City. The full name in Spanish of the original settlement that eventually became Los Angeles was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles or “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels.” Although most are aware of L.A.’s connection to angels, many do not know that this city’s name has a connection to Mary, Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, Jesus’s (and our) mother.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is known to most Americans as “The City of Brotherly Love,” and in terms of population size is the sixth largest U.S. city. Some may not be mindful of its biblical origin, and that its name refers to one of the seven churches that John wrote letters to in the Book of Revelation. Philadelphia was a city in the region of Lydia in Asia Minor, about twenty-five miles south-east of Sardis. Its meaning in Greek is simply “Love of a brother.”

Native English-speakers perhaps do not know that the word San is the masculine title of the word meaning “saint” in Spanish. Thus, San Antonio (Texas), San Jose (California), San Francisco (California), and San Diego (California) are all cities that were named after saints. All four are within the top twenty in terms of population size. The name San Antonio refers to Saint Anthony (of Padua, from Portugal), which was selected on June 13, the feast day for this important saint and Doctor of the Church. San Jose is named after Saint Joseph from Nazareth, the husband of Mary who was a father to Jesus. Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most venerated figures in Christianity, was the inspiration behind the name given to the city of San Francisco. And finally, San Diego was named after Saint Didacus of Alcala (also known as Diego de San Nicolas). This city is particularly noteworthy in that it marks the birthplace of Christianity in the western portion of the United States.

Similar to the above, the word Santa is the feminine title for “saint” in Spanish. Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Santa Ana, all located in California, are thus examples of additional cities whose names derive from saints. Santa Barbara is named after Saint Barbara, an early Christian Greek saint, martyr, and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, who lived in Asia Minor in the third century. Santa Monica is named after Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine (who also has a famous city named after him), while Santa Ana is named after Saint Anne, the mother of Mary, the Blessed Virgin.

Although St. Augustine (Florida) is not on the list of the largest cities in the United States, it is one of our most important from a historical perspective. It might surprise some to hear that St. Augustine is the oldest continuing settlement in America, even older than any of the more well-known cities of the former British colonies. It is named after Saint Augustine, (the Bishop of Hippo) who was one of the most influential philosophical theologians of the Western world. The first Christian worship service (celebrating the feast of Saint Augustine) took place here in the year 1563, which one can appreciate was many, many decades before the year when the first slaves are known to have arrived in the former British colonies (1619), and which has been incorrectly declared by the authors of the New York Times’ 1619 Project as a defining moment for the country. Christianity and the worship of God, not slavery, stands as our defining moment, at a minimum based on first-in-time logic, but much more logically based on its truly foundational nature.

To native English-speakers, St. Louis/St. Charles (Missouri), St. Paul (Minnesota), and St. Petersburg (Florida) are more easily recognized as being connected to Christian saints. St. Louis is named after the saint (King Louis IX) who served as the king of France, and who was the only French royal to ever have been named a saint. Its nearby suburb was named after Saint Charles Borromeo, an Italian cardinal. The city of St. Paul was named in honor of Saint Paul the Apostle, and St. Petersburg was named after the apostle Saint Peter, the founder of the Church of Rome and the first bishop of Rome (i.e., the first pope).

Other well-known U.S. cities may not be named after saints, but otherwise have been blessed with Christian names. In many cases, unless you speak Spanish or Latin you might not catch the connection. A shining example is Corpus Christi (Texas). In Ecclesiastical (Church/Liturgical) Latin the term means “body of Christ,” which is in reference to the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion. The name was given to the site by a Spanish explorer in 1519, which he discovered on the feast day of Corpus Christi (a moveable feast day which takes place on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday).

While it is technically correct that the city of Sacramento (California) was named after the Sacramento River, the river obtained its name from the Holy Sacrament (also known as the “Eucharist”). In another beautiful example, Santa Fe (New Mexico) is Spanish for “Holy Faith” (note that the words San or Santa also mean “holy” in Spanish). The cities full name when originally founded was La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis “The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi.” In another heavenly instance, Santa Cruz (California), famous for its boardwalk, is named after “the Sacred Cross” or “The Holy Cross,” one of the most important symbols of the Christian church.

For other U.S. cities, the Christian connection is obvious and impossible to deny. Such is the case for the city of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), which has a historical relationship to the celebration of the birth of Christ (i.e., Christmas). Bethesda (Maryland), on the other hand, has a lesser-known biblical connection. Its name is Aramaic for “House of Mercy.” In the Bible it refers to a healing pool in Jerusalem (the Pool of Bethesda). If you take the time to look you will find that many other U.S. cities and towns have names which are tied to cities or places from the Bible.

U.S. territories also display Christian influence in the names of their major cities. One example is the territory of Puerto Rico, whose capital, San Juan (“St. John” in English), is named after Saint John the Baptist, the famous relative of Jesus. The island was originally given the name San Juan Bautista, in honor of the last and greatest of all the prophets.

While not every city in the U.S. has a Christian or biblical name, that fact does not make America a non-Christian or wholly secular nation. Without a doubt, the foundational influence of Christianity can be clearly seen in the names of cities across the United States and its territories. You can attempt to deny it or argue against it, but this will not change the truth that our country has deep Christian and biblical roots, as well as a historic love for God and Jesus Christ, his only son, our Father.

Photo Credit- The Columbian