Why do we say 'Holy Toledo' and what does it mean?

by John Amato

The phrase Holy Toledo is one of the most well known associations to the city of Toledo. 

Even if you're not from Toledo, there is a meaning and familiarity with the phrase that is recognizable. It wouldn't be out of place to hear someone utter 'Holy Toledo' in surprise or excitement anywhere in the United States. 

The origins of 'Holy Toledo' are not widely known and often misattributed. When I learned the real history of the saying, it made me love using it even more. 

In this post we're going to cover these topics so you won't be wondering where the phrase Holy Toledo came from anymore:

  1. Uses of Holy Toledo in popular culture and around Toledo
  2. Where did Holy Toledo come from?
  3. Wear your Holy Toledo pride
holy toledo saying shirt
(Check out our Holy Toledo apparel!)

Uses of Holy Toledo in popular culture and around Toledo

The use of 'Holy Toledo' in pop culture and around the city of Toledo make 'Holy Toledo' a well known saying. 

For people who don't live in Toledo, the most likely exposure to 'Holy Toledo' comes from the Batman television show. Batman's sidekick, Robin, was fond of using 'Holy' sayings during the show. 

Some of these uses are a bit funny and relative to his specific circumstances. However, the 'Holy' usage that is most often repeated and used is 'Holy Toledo, Batman!'. 

Holy Toledo is well known around the Toledo region for obvious reasons. Residents of Northwest Ohio grew up in an area most well known for the most populous city in the region. As an older saying, this is something that people grew up hearing from their parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. 

The phrase has seen a revival in recent years as the Mud Hens have claimed the copyright for the term. In doing so, they have adopted it in game and around the stadium.

The Mud Hens and Walleye have created jersey and clothing bearing the words Holy Toledo. As they have expanded Hensville, they even gave one of their new restaurants the moniker, Holy Toledo Tavern. 

holey toledough donut truck

(photo credit: Holey Toledough FB page)

Additionally, plays on the phrase are popular among local businesses. Most notable is Toledo's favorite donut shop and truck, Holey Toledough. There is also the newly formed Holy Toledo History which provides audio tours throughout Toledo and has published historical books on Northwest Ohio.

Needless, to say, if you're from the Toledo area and you haven't heard someone say Holy Toledo, it's time to start exploring Toledo!

Where did Holy Toledo come from?

One of my favorite places to do Toledo history research is at the Local History and Genealogy floor at the downtown branch of the Toledo Library. It's there that I dug up Toledo Blade clippings on the You Will Do Better in Toledo slogan, Toledo Maroons, We're Strong for Toledo song and slogan, Lion Store, and many other nostalgic Toledo, Ohio places and organizations that we turned into t-shirt designs.

During my time researching Toledo history and digging through old yearbooks for design inspiration, I stumbled across this excerpt from the Toledo Blade on the history of Holy Toledo. 

The phrase Holy Toledo is something that I have been familiar with since I was young. Both because I'm from the Toledo area and grew up an avid watcher of Batman. 

holy toledo history from toledo blade

When I stumbled upon this clipping from The Blade, I was thrilled to learn the real history behind why we say Holy Toledo:

1 – The city of Toledo, Spain, where Christianity got its first hold in that country after a long political and religious struggle, is often called the Holy City of Toledo in literature;

2 – Holy week always has been the worst week at the box office for show business, and old-time actors and performers contended any week in Toledo was Holy Week, so they spread the word as they traveled;

3 – The gangster version. (In the 20s and 30s, Toledo was a sanctuary for gangsters. They made an agreement with the police that if the police would leave them alone, they would leave Toledo alone. Since this provided a sanctuary, the gangsters called the city "Holy Toledo."

The history of the city of Toledo makes it a special place. It's why our nostalgic clothing has a place.

All three of these explanations for the meaning of the phrase 'Holly Toledo' are fantastic. They highlight the history and personality of the great city of Toledo.

Wear your Holy Toledo pride!

Holy Toledo t-shirt on maumee river

If you've made it to our website directly from a search about the history of Holy Toledo, you might not know that we are known for making fun, nostalgic apparel and gifts for the city of Toledo. 

We love to celebrate our history (hence this article you are reading now). 

It was only fitting that one day we release our own shirt with the phrase 'Holy Toledo' on it. Well we finally did that and we're excited to share it with you!

If you love this saying, it connects you to your childhood, or you love the city of Toledo, our Vintage Holy Toledo t-shirt is meant for you.

You can click on the link or photo above to be taken to the product page for the shirt or find it at either one of our retail stores in Toledo, Ohio.


  • Comment Author: John Amato

    @ronald it’s so interesting to hear it was used in Canada in the 50s. Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment Author: John Amato

    @angela Super cool last name! We’re jealous!

  • Comment Author: Angela

    Im super human But Im Holy Toledo my maiden name very proud to have a last name that a city in america is called, Toledo.

  • Comment Author: Ronald

    Suddenly the words came to my mind. Holy Toledo was also an expression in Canada, in 1959!

  • Comment Author: Ronald

    Suddenly the words came to my mind. Holy Toledo was also an expression in Canada, in 1959!

Write a comment

*Denotes required fields.