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A Map of Saintly Place-names in Europe
The highest concentration in Europe of places named after saints? Galicia, in Spain.
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). The dots are distributed fairly evenly across the country, with higher concentrations in Veneto, the area around Venice, and the Po valley, and lower concentrations in Sicily and the south of the Italian mainland.
Portugal is a distant fourth, with just 3.8% of the European total. Its 'holy' place-names are mainly coastal and northern. Portugal is just a few dozen place-names ahead of Greece, where a central zone across the mainland and the island of Crete seem responsible for most saintly topographies.
Belgium and Hungary are ex aequo at 464 place-names (2.2%), with concentrations in the centre and west of those countries, respectively.
Things get un-holy pretty quickly from here on down. Only five more countries have more than 100 place names with a saintly prefix. The UK has a notable concentration in Cornwall, and a smattering across the south and in Wales. Germany's 'Sankt' cities and towns are few and far between in any part of the country.
Albania's relatively high place in the ranking on the map seems an extension of Greece's high score. The same for Croatia, where the coastal convergence of dots could as well be a continuation of the Italian zone of high density. And Russia's relatively high score looks pretty thin on the ground on the map, considering its gigantic territory.
Place-names starting with the 'Saint' prefix (or local equivalent) are surprisingly rare, especially in traditionally Catholic countries like the Czech Republic (70), Poland (55) or Ireland (34).
And whether or not it has to do with the effects of the Reformation or reflects one of the causes of it, especially northern countries seem to lack towns or cities named after saints. Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark only have four between them – only one less than tiny (and Muslim-majority) Kosovo.
Strange Maps #873
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Some of our favourite patron saints and their causes:
Anne (French-Canadian voyageurs), Anthony of Padua (those seeking lost persons or items), Barbara (service personnel of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces), Bernardine of Siena (advertisers), Bernard of Menthon (skiers), Cajetan (the unemployed), Cassian of Imola (stenographers), Cecilia (musicians), Columbanus (motorcyclists), Drogo of Sebourg (coffee-house keepers), Elmo (pyrotechnicians, steeplejacks, chimneysweeps and anyone working at great heights), Fiacre (taxi drivers), Gummarus (lumberjacks), Joan of Arc (soldiers), John Bosco (editors), Joseph of Arimathea (funeral directors), Joseph of Cupertino (astronauts), Kateri (ecologists), Lidwina (ice skaters), Martha (dieticians), Mary Magdalene (hairdressers, pharmacists and prostitutes), Matthew (tax collectors and perfumers, among many others), Philip (pastry chefs), Solange (shepherdesses), Ursula (orphans), Valentine (beekeepers), Vitus (comedians), Wolbodo (students), Zita (waiters).
(2) Isidore of Seville, who is celebrated by some as the patron saint of the Internet, is sometimes also accorded patronage over cartography because of the Jerusalem-centred T-O map of the world he produced, which remained influential for centuries to come. Isidore has been officially confirmed in neither capacity by the Vatican.
Physicist Frank Wilczek proposes new methods of searching for extraterrestrial life.
- Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek thinks we are not searching for aliens correctly.
- Instead of sending out and listening for signals, he proposes two new methods of looking for extraterrestrials.
- Spotting anomalies in planet temperature and atmosphere could yield clues of alien life, says the physicist.
1. Atmosphere chemistry<p>Like we found out with our own effect on the Earth's atmosphere, making a <a href="https://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/facts/hole_SH.html" target="_blank">hole in the ozone layer</a>, the gases around a planet can be impacted by its inhabitants. "Atmospheres are especially significant in the search for alien life," <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/looking-for-signs-of-alien-technology-11581605907" target="_blank">writes Wilczek</a> "because they might be affected by biological processes, the way that photosynthesis on Earth produces nearly all of our planet's atmospheric oxygen."</p><p>But while astrobiology can provide invaluable clues, so can looking for the signs of alien technology, which can also be manifested in the atmosphere. An advanced alien civilization might be colonizing other planets, turning their atmospheres to resemble the home planets. This makes sense considering our own plans to terraform other planets like Mars to allow us to breathe there. Elon Musk even <a href="https://www.space.com/elon-musk-serious-nuke-mars-terraforming.html" target="_blank">wants to nuke the red planet.</a></p>
The Most Beautiful Equation: How Wilczek Got His Nobel<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="ijBZzuI2" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="061a3de613c45f42b05432a2949e7caa"> <div id="botr_ijBZzuI2_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ijBZzuI2-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/ijBZzuI2-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ijBZzuI2-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
2. Planet temperatures<p>Wilczek also floats another idea - what if an alien civilization created a greenhouse effect to raise the temperature of a planet? For example, if extraterrestrials were currently researching Earth, they would likely notice the increased levels of carbon dioxide that are <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases" target="_blank">heating up</a> our atmosphere. Similarly, we can looks for such signs around the exoplanets.</p><p>An advanced civilization might also be heating up planets to raise their temperatures to uncover resources and make them more habitable. Unfreezing water might be one great reason to turn up the thermostat. </p><p>Unusually high temperatures can also be caused by alien manufacturing and the use of artificial energy sources like nuclear fission or fusion, suggests the scientist. Structures like the hypothetical <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/this-mind-bending-scale-predicts-the-power-of-advanced-civilizations" target="_self">Dyson spheres</a>, which could be used to harvest energy from stars, can be particularly noticeable. </p>
Wilczek: Why 'Change without Change' Is One of the Fundamental Principles of the ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="KrUgLGWm" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="cc13c3c65924439c1992935c61ab8977"> <div id="botr_KrUgLGWm_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/KrUgLGWm-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/KrUgLGWm-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/KrUgLGWm-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
As patients approached death, many had dreams and visions of deceased loved ones.
One of the most devastating elements of the coronavirus pandemic has been the inability to personally care for loved ones who have fallen ill.
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.