St. Mary's City is a former colonial town that was Maryland's first European settlement and capital. It is now a large, state-run historic area, which includes a reconstruction of the original colonial settlement, and a living history area and museum complex. Half of the area is occupied by the campus of the public honors college, St. Mary's College of Maryland.
It is an unincorporated community under state law, and is located in southern St. Mary's County, which is the southernmost tip of the state of Maryland on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. St. Mary's City is bordered by the St. Mary's River, a short, brackish water tidal tributary of the Potomac River, near where it empties into the Chesapeake.
St. Mary's City is the historic site of the founding of the Colony of Maryland. The original settlement was also the fourth oldest permanent English settlement in the United States.
St. Mary's City is also considered the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States, with the earliest North American colonial settlement ever established with the specific mandate of being a haven for both Catholic and Protestant Christian faiths.