First Mission Period 1566 - 1587

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This mission just to the north of St. Augustine, has been described as "the first Christian mission to the North American Indian," although the time of the mission's founding is not known. It is certainly the oldest of the Florida missions that endured and the only one to survive beyond 1706 more or less in its original location. The site, occupied by the Timucuan village of Seloy when the Spaniards arrived in 1565, was appropriated by Menéndez de Avilés as the initial site of St. Augustine, but abandoned in 1566 after the powder magazine and many of the supplies were destroyed by attacking natives. The hostility of the natives of this Salt-Water Timucua area through the rest of the 1560's seems to have precluded any missionary activity there during the Jesuit period. The Jesuits' work at St. Augustine and at the two other garrison centers of San Matheo (on or near the site of the French Fort Caroline) and Fort San Pedro (on the southern end of Cumberland Island) seems to have been restricted to hearing soldiers' confessions during Easter season. As relations with the Timucua improved, the settlement that was to become Nombre de Dios mission probably became a visita served from St. Augustine by one of the first Franciscan friars to reach Florida after the Jesuits' departure. After Fray Alonso Reynoso's arrival in 1577 with a number of friars, the work at Nombre de Dios is alleged to have had such success that converts were soon attending Mass regularly in St. Augustine. The doctrina at Nombre de Dios appears to date from 1587, when the recently arrived Fray Alonso de Escobedo was assigned there. What is believed to be Seloy's village and the initial site of St. Augustine is currently being explored archaeolo gically under the direction of Kathleen Deagan.

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"Summary Guide to Spanish Florida Missions and Vistas with Churches in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries"

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© Copyright. John P. Walsh. April 21, 2002