Four hundred and fifty years ago, on September 8, 1565, Captain-General Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés stepped ashore at Matanzas Bay and founded St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest, continuously occupied European city, port, and parish in the continental United States.
On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, at 9AM, Florida Living History, Inc. will present the official, annual historical re-enactment of Menéndez’ landing and this year’s 450th Anniversary commemoration at Mission Nombre de Dios 27 Ocean Avenue in St. Augustine, Florida.
On September 8, 1565, St. Augustine – little more than a ditch and some piles of provisions – became a permanent European municipality and a part of the Spanish Empire. On that day, Pedro Menéndez, as the representative of the King of Spain, named the alcalde (English: “mayor”) and regidores (English: “city commissioners”) of the first cabildo (English: “city council”) of the City of San Agustín de la Florida. Menéndez thereby established and swore in the first permanent, European municipal government, judicial system, and military authority in what is now the continental U.S.
Significant, too, was the Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales at San Agustín de la Florida on September 8, 1565. As Dr. Michael Gannon observed in his excellent book, The Cross in the Sand (University of Florida Press; 1965): “It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent [European] settlement in the land.” Thereby was established the first parish in what is what is now the continental U.S., with Father Lopez as the first parish priest.
WHAT WILL I SEE AT FLH’S FOUNDING DAY 2015 HISTORICAL RE-EANACTMENT?
This year, Florida Living History, Inc.’s (FLH’s)’s once-in-a-lifetime, 450th-Anniversary historical re-enactment will include several new features:
- Volunteer 16th-century historical re-enactors from across the U.S. – as far away as California – will be participating;
- The largest known battery of historical artillery ever assembled for a re-enactment in St. Augustine;
- A flotilla of period watercraft assembled from across Florida;
- For the first time in the history of this re-enactment, the pivotal role of Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, St. Augustine’s first parish priest, will be portrayed by an ordained priest, Fr. Gilbert Medina, of All Souls Parish in Sanford and FLH’s Chaplain;
- For the first time in the history of this re-enactment, Menéndez’ will administer the oath to his officers, who formed Florida’s first municipal government and thereby officially “founded” the City of St. Augustine.
THE SCHEDULE FOR FLH’S FOUNDING DAY 2015 HISTORICAL RE-EANACTMENT
The schedule for Florida Living History, Inc.’s (FLH’s), Founding Day 2015 historical re-enactment onTuesday, September 8, at Mission Nombre de Dios, commemorating the 450th Anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, will consist of:
OPENING SALUTATION AT THE GREAT CROSS
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary / Division 14 Honor/Color Guard, with flag-bearers representing all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, accompanied by trumpeters and drummers of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office Pipes and Drums, will march to their positions at the Founding Day 2015 stage, located at the foot of the Great Cross.
While the Proclamador (portrayed by Mr. Kelly McTaggart) begins the Founding Day narrative, Menéndez’ officers, the FLH Color Guard, and FLH volunteers, representing the colonists and native Timucua present at the 1565 Founding, will march to the landing site.
Menéndez (portrayed by Mr. Chad Light) and company, accompanied by a flotilla of period watercraft, will appear offshore of the Great Cross and proceed to the landing site. FLH’s Founding Day 2015 historical re-enactment officially begins!
The shore batteries and water-borne artillery, under the direction of the National Park Service, will begin firing their salute to the Adelantado once Menendez’ flotilla has reached the Great Cross. Trumpeters will begin their fanfare and the drummers will begin to beat their salute.
Menéndez and company will land and come ashore. Father Lopez (portrayed by Fr. Gilbert Medina) and his acolytes will approach Menéndez and company. Father Lopez will extend a processional cross so that Menéndez may venerate it. Following this, Father Lopez will lead Menéndez, his officers, the colonists, and the Timucua towards the Great Cross and the stage.
Upon arrival at the Great Cross, Father Lopez, his acolytes, Menéndez, his officers, and the FLH Color Guard will ascend the stage, while the colonists and the Timucua will take their position across the front of the stage.
THE VENERATION OF THE CROSS
Father Lopez will again present the cross to Menéndez and his officers for veneration. Menéndez will kneel to do so, thereby acknowledging the authority of the Church in the Enterprise of Florida. As Menéndez kneels, his officers and the colonists will kneel. Following the veneration by Menéndez and his officers, they will rise, along with the colonists, as Father Lopez turns to the audience and raises the cross for all to see and offers a blessing in Latin and English.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF FLORIDA
An FLH Color Guard flag-bearer will approach Menéndez with the Standard of Felipe II, King of All the Spains. Menéndez will bow and honor the Royal Standard, thereby acknowledging the authority of the Crown in the Enterprise of Florida. The flag-bearer will then raises the King’s Standard for all to see, while Menéndez draws his sword and takes possession of this new land of La Florida for God and Spain.
THE MASS OF THANKSGIVING
At this point, in all previous Founding Day heritage Events, the Mass of Thanksgiving has taken place on the traditional site of the original 1565 Mass – present-day Mission Nombre de Dios – and has been open to the public. This year, however, the Mass has been moved the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine at a later time.
THE FOUNDING OF ST. AUGUSTINE
Menéndez will then administer the oath of allegiance (in Spanish & English) to his officers, who will swear compliance. Thus is formed the first permanent European government in what is now the continental United States – the City of St Augustine is officially founded as a municipality of the Spanish Empire.
Upon completion of the oath, Fr. Lopez will offer a final blessing (in Latin) for FLH’s Founding Day 2105 volunteers and our audience.
Following the blessing, Fr. Lopez will raise the cross, Menéndez and his officers will draw and raise their swords, and the trumpeters and drummers will sound their final fanfare.
The colonists and audience will respond with shouts of
¡VIVA ESPAÑA! ¡VIVA LA FLORIDA! ¡VIVA SAN AGUSTÍN! ¡VIVA! ¡VIVA! ¡VIVA!
to celebrate the Founding of St. Augustine!
THE CONCLUSION OF FOUNDING DAY 2015, COMMEMORATING THE 450TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDING OF ST. AUGUSTINE
This officially ends Florida Living History, Inc.’s Founding Day 2015, 450th-Anniversary Historical Re-enactment.
ATTENDING FLH’S FOUNDING DAY 2015 HISTORICAL RE-EANACTMENT
Admission to this traditional, annual heritage Event is free of charge, as are ALL FLH activities. This Event is provided to the public by FLH’s volunteers as a service to our community and to our state.
Limited free parking is available on-site. Seating is limited, so please consider bringing a folding chair, as well as a sun-hat and bug-spray.
WHO IS FLH AND WHY IS FLH INVOLVED?
Florida Living History, Inc. (FLH), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization, headquartered in St. Augustine and dedicated to informing our state’s citizens and visitors about Florida’s colonial and territorial past via living-history programs. For the past six years, Florida Living History, Inc.’s (FLH’s) volunteers have organized, funded, and produced the historical re-enactment of St. Augustine’s annual Founding Day anniversary commemoration.
WHY IS FLH’S FOUNDING DAY HISTORICAL RE-ENACTMENT SIGNIFICANT?
Florida Living History, Inc.’s (FLH’s) Founding Day historical re-enactment is significant in that it commemorates the 450th Anniversary – to the very day and on the original site – of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest, continuously occupied European city, port, and parish in the continental United States.