Fort San Luis
The reconstructed Spanish
fort now demonstrates how
the soldiers that defended the
mission once lived.
Apalachee Council House
The reconstructed council
house is one of the key
structures at the mission site. - Mission San Luis, Florida - Mission San Luis, Florida
Mission San Luis National Landmark - Tallahassee, Florida
Mission San Luis
Visitors to Mission San Luis in Tallahassee can
explore the reconstructed structures and fort of
the historic site.
A 17th Century Florida Mission
Located in the heart of the modern city of
Tallahassee is one of the most intriguing
historic sites in Florida - Mission San Luis.

Spanish and Native American occupation of
this site dates to 1656 when a decision was
reached to establish a capital for Spain's
western settlements in Florida. Franciscan
missionaries had been active among the
inhabitants of the Apalachee village of
Anhaica since the 1630s, but in 1656 the
chief of the village agreed to relocate his
people from their long-occupied site near
Florida's Capitol Complex (see
De Soto
Winter Encampment Site) to the broad hilltop
at today's Mission San Luis site.

The mission served as a religious, military
and educational center for more than 1,400
Apalachee and gradually grew over much of
its occupation. The Native Americans that
lived and worked here largely adopted
Christianity, a religion that many of their few
surviving descendants continue to practice to
this day.

Archaeologists consider Mission San Luis
unique because unlike Spain's eastern
Florida capital of
St. Augustine, the village
marked a unique combination of European
and Native American cultures. Spanish
settlers, priests and soldiers lived and
worked side by side with Apalachee warriors
and their families.

St. Augustine, for example, was laid out on a
grid pattern while San Luis was established
using the traditional circular pattern of Native
American towns of the region.

Because of the size of the mission, some of
its structures were quite remarkable. The
Apalachee council house, for example,
measured 140 feet in diameter and is
believed to have been the largest Indian
structure in Florida's historic era. It has been
reconstructed at the site and is truly
impressive in scale.

Directly across the plaza of the village can be
found the massive church of the mission,
also reconstructed, along with the adjacent
friary or home of the priests that served the
inhabitants of Mission San Luis.

Other structures around the plaza included
the chief's house and a village of homes
occupied by Spanish settlers and soldiers.
One of these has been reconstructed to
allow visitors to see how early Spanish
residents of the mission lived and worked.

Also located on the grounds of the complex
is the restored Fort San Luis, originally built
by Spanish soldiers and Apalachee warriors
during the 17th century to defend the mission
and its inhabitants.

A large complex, the fort consists of a central
structure or citadel where the soldiers lived
and performed their duties, surrounded by a
strong outer wall of earth and timber. It gives
visitors a chance to explore military life of
Florida's mission era.

Mission San Luis thrived at this site for nearly
fifty years until the outbreak of Queen Anne's
War between England and Spain in 1701.
The war gave English officials in Carolina the
excuse they needed to arm warriors from the
Creek and other nations and lead them on
raids against the North Florida missions.
The expeditions were bloody and cruel.
Between 1702 and 1704, most of the
missions were destroyed and thousands of
Apalachee either killed or enslaved.

By the summer of 1704, Mission San Luis
was one of the last surviving missions and it
was obvious that it could not long hold
against the English raids. With little other
choice, the Spanish and Apalachee
evacuated the mission on July 31, 1704, and
burned the buildings themselves. A major
British expedition arrived two days later to
find the mission already destroyed.

The surviving Apalachee fled in all directions.
Some assimilated with the Creek Nations
and others fled east to St. Augustine and
west to Pensacola. A small group still lives
today in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.

Mission San Luis is open to the public from
10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesday through
Sunday. The cost to visit is $5 for adults, $3
for seniors (65 and over) and $2 for students
(6-17). Active Duty Military free with ID.

Mission San Luis is located at 2100 West
Tennessee Street in Tallahassee, Florida.

Please click here to visit their official home
page for directions and more information.
Spanish House at San Luis
With archaeological evidence
as a guide, the curators of the
site have restored this
Spanish-era home.
Spanish Helmet
Reproduced Spanish
equipment like this helmet
help visitors understand life at
the fort and mission.
Gate of Fort San Luis
The restored earth and timber
walls of Fort San Luis are
surprisingly massive.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.