Driving over the Ravenel Bridge into Charleston, the many steeples dotting the landscape stand out to first time visitors. Many believe that Charleston was given the name, “The Holy City” because of the religious freedom found here when the area was first settled. The church steeples were also used as a landmark by ship captains coming into Charleston, which was one of the most important ports on the Eastern seaboard.
Charleston’s diverse houses of worship include St. Michael’s Protestant Episcopal Church, St. Phillip’s, Brith Sholom Beth Israel Synagogue of Charleston, the Circular Congregational Church and The French Huguenot Church. Of course, there are many more houses of worship, too numerous to list. Most importantly, there is one major link between all the different religious traditions and beliefs in Charleston. Throughout the years, after building and re-building, after fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wars, Charleston has remained an open-minded city, incorporating all thoughts, beliefs, and cultures with open arms.
However, another story about the origins of Charleston’s unusual nickname turns to the University of South Carolina roughly 100 years ago. There, a history professor named Yates Snowden used the term in a series of letters written to John Bennett, a Charleston author and former editor at the Post and Courier, which was then Charleston’s main newspaper. The two men seem to have carried on a discussion regarding the relative merits of Boston and Charleston in deserving the honor of being dubbed the Holy City.
Over the next 20 years or so, the term was linked with Snowden’s name in several more articles in the Post and Courier, bringing the public’s attention to the name. Snowden was a native Charlestonian and continued to love the city until his death in 1933. One Post and Courier staffer implied that Snowden used the name Holy City because its residents worshipped their home and the rest of the world envied those who were lucky enough to live here.
Whatever is the “real” story, the name stuck and today, residents and visitors know Charleston as “The Holy City.”
Taken in part from: Sandlappertours.com & ahoycharleston.com