Mission Nombre de Dios - St. Augustine, Florida
Mission Nombre de Dios - St. Augustine, Florida
Mission Nombre de Dios
The Chapel of Nuestra Senora de La Leche on the
grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios in
St. Augustine, Florida, is open to visitors daily.
The Great Cross
A magnificent cross on the
grounds of Mission Nombre
de Dios commemorates the
permanent arrival European
settlers and the Church.
First Permanent Church
A rustic altar on the grounds
of Mission Nombre de Dios
commemorates the founding
of the first permanent Catholic
Church in the United States.
Mission Nombre de Dios - St. Augustine, Florida
Oldest Church in the U.S.A.
Site of the First Settlement
The site of the first permanent
European settlement in the
United States is seen here
from the grounds of Mission
Nombre de Dios.
The Mission Nombre de Dios historic site in
St. Augustine, Florida, commemorates the
founding of the first permanent Christian
church in the United States.

A massive steel cross on the grounds,
believed to be the tallest in the country, looks
out over the site where Pedro Menendez de
Aviles planted the first permanent settlement
in the United States in 1565. Although there
had been earlier attempts, St. Augustine was
the first community to permanently take root
and continues to thrive today.

The site of the actual first settlement has
been located by archaeologists both on
today's mission grounds and at the adjacent

Fountain of
Youth Archaeological Park. In
1565, these were the site of the Timucuan
village of Seloy. When Pedro Menendez de
Aviles arrived in Matanzas Bay that year with
orders to expel the French intruders at
Caroline on the St. Johns River, he landed
first at Seloy.

From the chief and inhabitants of the village,
Menendez de Aviles obtained information on
the location of the French fort and guides
who could lead him overland to attack it. He
threw up a hastily-built fort of his own in the
Indian village.

On September 8, 1565, the day the Spanish
arrived, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza
Grajales, the fleet chaplain, offered a Mass of
Thanksgiving from a rough altar erected on
the shore at Seloy.

It was a significant moment in the Christian
history of the United States, as from that day
to this the Catholic Church has remained a
vital part of St. Augustine. The establishment
of the city in 1565 can rightly be considered
the date of the founding of the first permanent
Christian church in the United States. The
rustic altar of the first Mass is recreated today
on the mission grounds.

Mission Nombre de Dios ("Name of God" in
Spanish) was a fixture on the landscape of
St. Augustine well into the 18th century.

At its height, the mission was the mother of a
chain that stretched beyond the Chipola River
to Missions San Nicolas and San Carlos in
the Florida panhandle and north even into
Virginia. These
doctrinas or mission centers
offered education and religious instruction to
thousands of Native Americans while also
serving as social centers and military rallying
points. Not only did they fulfill their mandate
to bring the Indians to Christianity, they also
offered a bulwark of protection against the
southward expansion of the English.

At the St. Augustine site, the centerpiece of
the mission was the chapel and shrine of
Nuestra Senora de la Leche y buen parto
("Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery").
Established by the early 1600s, this was the
first shrine to the Virgin Mary in the country.
Sacred Ground
Visitors to Mission Nombre
de Dios stroll along paths that
lead through beautiful burial
grounds. The site has been
called "America's most
sacred acre."
Virtually all of Florida's early chapels were
built of wood, clay daub and thatch, but by the
1700s, the chapel at Mission Nombre de
Dios was of coquina stone. A natural rock
formed by the concretion of sea shells, this
rock was mined on nearby Anastasia Island
and used in the construction of much of old
St. Augustine, including the massive
de San Marcos.

In 1728, when British troops led by Colonel
John Palmer laid siege to St. Augustine,
Spanish troops used the cannon of the
Castillo to shell the chapel. The Carolina
troops led by Palmer had taken up positions
on the mission grounds and the Spanish
soldiers were forced to bombard the chapel
to prevent its use by their enemies.

The chapel was rebuilt in 1875 and restored
again in 1914 to repair hurricane damage. It
is open daily and seats about 30 people.

The grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios are
located at 27 Ocean Avenue in St. Augustine
and feature walking paths, the 208 foot Great
Cross, the chapel, cemetery, interpretive
signs and a gift shop. Open daily, the site is
free to visit.
Please click here to visit the
official website for more information.
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Copyright 2011 & 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: November 13, 2013