Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mission Nombre de Dios - St. Augustine, Florida

It has because been called "the most sacred acre in America" and Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine has truly earned that honor.

Now a beautiful park setting with a magnificent steel cross facing Matanzas Bay, the restored Chapel of Nuestra Senora de La Leche, historic cemetery and interpretive signs detailing the history of the site, the mission commemorates the planting of the first permanent Christian church in the United States.

On September 8, 1565, a Spanish flotilla commanded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived in Florida's Matanzas Bay. He had been ordered to drive away the French who had built Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River and to plant a permanent settlement that would firmly establish Spain's title to the region. Spotting the Timucuan town of Seloy, Menendez came ashore and quickly established friendly relations with the leaders and inhabitants of the town.

On the same day, the fleet chaplain conducted a Mass of Thanksgiving to thank God for the safe arrival of the settlers in the New World. The Mass marked the firm establishment of the Catholic Church at St. Augustine and its presence has continued there without interruption for nearly 450 years.

Over the years that followed, Mission Nombre de Dios and its Chapel of Nuestra Senora de La Leche served as the mother of a chain of missions that stretched across Florida and up the East Coast as far as Virginia. The stone chapel was bombarded and destroyed by the Spanish themselves to prevent its use by English attackers during the 1700s, but was restored in 1875.

Today the site is open to the public daily and is a major landmark in the history of Christianity in the United States. Please click here to learn more about Mission Nombre de Dios:

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