St Barts History
And why it has so many different names

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History of Saint Barts

Saint Barth (St. Barts) is an island with an identity crisis, starting with the origin of its name. Some claim the island was named for Bartolomeo, brother of Christopher Columbus who discovered the island in 1493. Others say it was for Saint Bartholomew, one of the 12 Apostles of Christ.  

That is only the beginning. What really confuses matters is that St. (Saint) Barthelemy is often called St. (Saint) Barts or St. (Saint) Bart in English and St. (Saint) Barths or St. (Saint) Barth in French.     

St. Barthelemy was first settled, by the French, in 1648, who then sold it to Sweden in 1784. The Swedes renamed main port town Gustavia for Swedish King Gustav III and  turned it into a thriving free port.  

During the 18th century the entire island prospered by supplying colonial powers fighting over their New World possessions.

After France bought back the island in 1878, St. Barts was allowed to keep its status as a free port, its Swedish street and town names and even Sweden’s coat of arms for its own flag and coat of arms.

   Coat of Arms           National Flag

Coat of arms of Saint Barthélemy     Flag of Saint Barthélemy


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