Thursday, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015

Mission Nombre de Dios

I dare you to tell me this doesn’t look inviting. Nombre de Dios has beautiful grounds, and this Byzantine shrine at right, tucked away among the palms, inspires peace in people of all walks of life. I’m neither Catholic nor Orthodox and yet cannot help but find these places inspiring and beautiful. The trees create a shadowy, alluring setting; if you happen to visit when you more or less have the place to yourself, or when a rainstorm is brewing, the aura of solitude is even more evident.

St. George Street

I love visiting the De Mesa-Sanchez House, part of the Colonial Quarter. This house’s original section dates from the 1700s, while later additions came about through the 18th and 19th centuries. Here we see a dining area, complete with a game of chess seemingly in progress. The room in the back, seen through the doorway, shows the house in its various stages of construction. There’s also a flat model of the town of St. Augustine. 

(c) 2015 St. Augustine Fridays

Thursday, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015

Special Edition

If you're interested in St. Augustine and its history, you may have noticed all the recent coverage of the city's 450th birthday celebration. You can find videos on Youtube, articles in local newspapers, lots of buzz (mostly positive) concerning the birthday bash. Still, this Sunday will be the 450th anniversary of a different kind of event, the massacre of the French Huguenots at Fort Caroline (orchestrated, coincidentally, by the same Spanish soldiers whose building of St. Augustine's original 1565 colony is so well-praised, *cough, cough*).

So what happened exactly? Long story short: The Frenchmen, hated for both their nationality and their Protestant faith, built a fort in "Spanish" territory, and naturally the Spanish didn't want it there. Conquistadors slogged through a hurricane and attacked Fort Caroline on the morning of September 20, 1565, killing many of the men and capturing women and children. The fort was then taken under Spanish control. Sadly, the names of the victims remain mostly unknown.

Please join me in remembering those who had to die so St. Augustine could become the storied city it is today. I find it distressing that those who care about the city's history and may be in a position to recognize the victims of this New World tragedy seem disinterested in doing so. Why justify, gloss over, or ignore the bloody fate of Florida's Protestant settlers? I've greatly enjoyed the wealth of information regarding St. Augustine's Spanish, African, Native American, and British colonists, even pirates who visited the town. Why, then, is it so rare to hear anything about French Protestants killed for their beliefs? (Some have said their faith was not the reason for their slaughter. To put an end to this myth, please read the eyewitness accounts and letters by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, Father Gonzalo Solis de Meras, and founder Pedro Menendez de Aviles).

For a more in-depth account of the massacre at Fort Caroline, check out a post on one of my (now defunct) blogs: also has a great article:

You can also check out Fort Caroline's National Park Service site at although it's very unlikely that the fort actually stood at this spot . . . but that's another story.

(c) 2015 St. Augustine Fridays

Thursday, September 10, 2015

September 11, 2015

**Please join me in remembering the victims of September 11, 2001, and in keeping their friends and family in your thoughts**

St. Augustine Beach

As I may have said before, I’m not much of a beach person, but I do love watching the ocean. There’s just something magical about the sound of the waves and the smell of the fresh salt air and the cool breeze . . . I already love St. Augustine’s history and culture, and the chance to visit the ocean only enhances the vacation experience. You may be surprised to learn that it was pretty chilly that day, as it is much of the time when I visit. Florida may be the land of sunshine, but it has its fair share of cold, windy, rainy days . . . and I’ll admit there were many years when my warmest winter coat felt really, really good. :-)

The “Oldest House”

If you like history and love exploring old houses, the Gonzalez-Alvarez House is the place for you. (Yes, I realize that sounded like a commercial). Affectionately known as the “Oldest House”, the lower level of the house, seen here, dates from the early 1700s. This is how the room might have looked when the Gonzalez lived and died within these walls. Note the hanging shelf to keep critters off the food, the beautiful wooden piece of furniture, and the various religious objects.

(c) 2015 St. Augustine Fridays

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September 04, 2015

Castillo de San Marcos

Did you know there’s a hidden room in the Castillo? Well, it’s not really hidden, it’s in plain sight, but with its entrance being just a little shaft close to the floor, you might easily miss it. This is the original powder magazine. It proved unsuitable for gunpowder since the room was always so damp, and was walled up until about the 1830s. (That’s another story, and quite an interesting one). Now it’s a rather creepy place you have to pretty much crawl to enter, but it’s worth the effort. This is one of the oldest rooms in the fort, dating from the 1670s and thus escaping the throes of remodeling in the 1750s. Oh, try to ignore the legends of two lovers being chained to the wall. That’s typical St. Augustine ghost lore, and the Castillo’s real history is way too fascinating to bother with hyped paranormal tales :-)

Fountain of Youth

It’s 1587, and you’re a colonist in the little settlement of San Agustín, which is only twenty-two years old. You climb up in the loft of the mission church, and this is what you see. Thanks to the cool and enterprising folks at the Fountain of Youth Park, we modern visitors get to see what our ancestors saw. (Okay, not my ancestors. My ancestors were stubbornly Protestant and would not have done very well in a place like this. Neither would they have had a very warm reception. :-)) I can’t wait to climb up here again. The loft is reached by a wooden staircase which is new and appears very safe, and if you visit on a dreary, rainy day like I did, the ambiance is quite striking.

(c) 2015 St. Augustine Fridays