Looking back on Founders Day 2011

Florida Living History, Inc. in partnership with Mission Nombre de Dios, updated local Historic City News reporters with an “after action report” on last month’s commemoration of the 446th anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Augustine in 1565.

The annual Founders Day heritage event was held this year on Saturday, September 10th, took place on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios, in the oldest, continually occupied European settlement and port in the continental United States.

The 2011 “Founding of St. Augustine” Anniversary was an overwhelming success, setting, for the second year in a row, a new record for Founding Day attendance at Mission Nombre de Dios, according to Mission management.

White, black, Hispanic, and Native American historical re-enactors from across Florida participated.

Activities began at 8:00 a.m. with the assembling of La Compañía de Santiago on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios. The local weather was warm, dry, and clear – highs in the 90s, with breezes blowing off Matanzas Bay.

By 9:30 a.m., the clergy and honored guests had arrived and la Compañía began assembling for the living-history portion of the Event – the re-enactment of the landing of Admiral Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in September 1565.

At 10:00 a.m., the Proclamador began his narration – la Compañía, led by Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales and flying banners of the Cross of Burgundy, the arms of Felipe II, the Austrian Cross of Victory, and the arms of Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, marched down to the bay-side.

As the ship’s boat bearing Menéndez de Avilés and his aides rounded the point of the Great Cross, artillery salutes were fired from across the small, neighboring lagoon, at the former site of a Timucuan village; the present-day Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.

The Adelantado came ashore, venerated the cross, then “took possession of the land” for His Most Catholic Majesty, Felipe II.

The landing re-enactment was followed by a proclamation read by the Honorable Leanna Freeman, Vice Mayor and Commissioner of the City of St. Augustine.

The Mass of Thanksgiving was next, celebrated by Fr. Terrence Morgan and priests of the diocese of St. Augustine.

The grand procession was led by the Knights of Columbus and clergy of the diocese of St. Augustine; La Compañía de Santiago, flags flying, marched next in line, followed by the honored guests and visitors.

To the pealing of the Mission’s bells, the procession marched across the Mission’s grounds, over the Gannon Bridge, and to the Prince of Peace Church, the site of Dr. Michael Gannon’s lecture on the 1565 founding of “the noble and loyal city.”

Dr. Gannon’s presentation – “The Altar Was Older than the Hearth” – was introduced by Dr. Kathleen Deagan.

Feedback on this year’s “Founding of St. Augustine” Anniversary has been enthusiastically positive from both our visitors and participants.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by Stacey Sather

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