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FOR TRAVEL -- ST THOMAS CARNIVAL STORY -- St. Thomas Carnival- photo credit-U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
FOR TRAVEL — ST THOMAS CARNIVAL STORY — St. Thomas Carnival- photo credit-U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism

Mick Jagger famously said you’ll never make a saint of him.

But plenty of Caribbean islands vied for the saintly destination name.

Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands after St. Ursula and the 10,000 virgins, but only the virgin part stuck.

The New York Post did a rundown of the Caribbean’s saintliest islands, read further to see if your favorite tropical getaway made the list.


Columbus was a busy guy, having discovered these islands in 1493 as well, collectively naming them Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes, or Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins. Ursula was a British princess who, along with said gaggle of virgins, went on a pilgrimage across Europe, only to be slaughtered by the Huns on their return trip.

Anywho, St. Thomas’ namesake was one of Jesus’ Big Twelve, notably the apostle who eye-rollingly doubted Jesus’ resurrection skills (ergo the term, “Doubting Thomas”). But he quickly and humbly ate crow after the J-man’s post-crucifixion pop-in. Rumor has it, Thomas later wound up in India, only to be speared to death.

Nobody in the world (including on the island itself) seems to know for sure which John inspired the naming of St. John (originally by the Danes as “St. Jan”). But let’s pretend they continued the disciple theme and go with St. John the Apostle (as opposed to the Baptist, of San Juan fame), Jesus’ teacher’s pet. He was the wordsmith of the bunch, credited with writing the eponymous Gospel, three Epistles and the Book of Revelation. Unlike the other apostles, martyrdom wasn’t John’s jam: he died at the ripe old age of 94.

Lastly, courtesy of the French, St. Croix isn’t named after a who, but a what — the Holy Cross.


To-may-to, to-mah-to: Whether you’re on the Dutch or French side of this two-headed pile o’ paradise, both are named (yessir, by Columbus again) for Martin of Tours, a reluctant fourth-century soldier turned freedom-fighting bishop turned monk who championed the freeing of prisoners and a moratorium on the killing of heretics. Good guy.

Fun fact: In his conscientious-objector days as a Roman calvary man, he volunteered to stand unarmed on the front line of a battle rather than fight. Fun fact No. 2: He cut his military cloak in half and wrapped one piece around a freezing, nearly naked beggar in France whom later turned out to be Jesus, according to Martin’s dreams. The mantle was later deemed holy and kept in a small sanctuary. Yadda, yadda; “capella”, the Old French/Latin word for cloak, became the name for a little church, a k a, chapel. Martin: a true caped crusader, indeed!


You might be pleased to know not all Caribbean saints are men. St. Lucia, settled by the French, is named for Saint Lucia, a female Christian martyr who met her horrific fate during the Diocletianic Persecution.

One of the earliest adherents of the “You can’t take it with you” mantra (which she actually is quoted as having said nearly word for word), Lucy was a rich, chaste woman who ran into trouble with her pagan hubby after giving away all of her jewels and wealth. So he sent her off to the Governor of Syracuse to be dealt with. Just how punished was she? Think a combination of Sansa and Ned Stark, with a twist of Mance Rayder. Yeah, better not to ask.


This island is a bit of a floozy, having changed hands some 22 times since first being found by Columbus in 1493. But it finally settled into Holland’s hands and its namesake is Dutch for Saint Eustace.

Patron saint of hunters, that bottle of Jäger you’re swigging bears his cross-and-stag emblem. The story behind that: Eustace was originally a Roman general named Placidus back in the 2nd century. One day, he went out on a stag hunt and wound up seeing a glowing crucifix betwixt the antlers of a deer. After that, boom, he was sold — he converted to Christianity and, like any good, soon-to-be-dead Christian, started disobeying the emperor. Unsurprisingly, this led to him and his family being roasted alive inside a bronze bull.


Ah, welcome to the bastion of extra-Continental French hedonism and luxury (once upon a time, it was the IKEA of the Caribbean, one of only two Antillean islands ever to have been owned by the Swedes, along with Guadeloupe).

It owes its name to — surprise! — Chrissy Columbus, who discovered it and named it, not for an actual saint, but for his li’l bro, Bartolomeo. Bart, like his older sibling, was also an explorer of the Americas and was probably likewise considered not so saintly by the many indigenous tribes he squared off with along the way. Still, to be the namesake of the island Diddy parties at for New Year’s — not too shabby.


The proud overlord of the Grenadines, this island was named by Christopher Columbus, who supposedly discovered it on Saint Vincent’s feast day in 1498.

Saint Vincent, the man, was an outspoken preacher who lived in Spain during the third century. Not a good time to be a chatty Christian, as he was later starved to death in prison by the Romans — but not before being tortured first on a red-hot gridiron (i.e. literally barbecued). Fittingly, St. Vincent the island is very much actively volcanic.


After all his magnanimous generosity in naming islands he discovered after other, typically better people, ‘Merica-discoverer Christopher Columbus thought of himself for a change and named this aptly cricket-bat-shaped island (they’re cricket crazy here) in his own honor in 1493 (Kitts is just a shorthand, nicknamey form of Christopher).

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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