Learning more about Spanish frontier from Vatican Archives


Most of what Historic City News readers know about colonial St. Augustine comes to us through the Archives General of the Indies in Seville, Spain.

When very rare Jesuit documents relating to the founding of the nation’s oldest European City became available from the Vatican Archives, Seminole State College Professor Diana Reigelsperger Ph.D. jumped at the opportunity to read, study and translate some very revealing records.

Reigelsperger, a specialist in the study of interethnic relations and settlement on the Spanish Florida frontier, will report her findings at the Monday, November 16th meeting of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society, to be held in the Flagler Room on the Flagler College Campus, 74 King Street, St. Augustine, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

The researchers of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society are eager to learn if the documents shed light on the Limpieza de Sangre laws that forbid anyone with Jewish blood from travel to the New World.

Limpieza de Sangre laws were common in Spain in the 16th century and important to such Catholic orders as the Franciscans.  However, the founder of the Jesuits, Ignacious of Loyola shunned the rules, saying “Jesus himself would have thus been forbidden to travel to the New World!”

Society members also are looking for clues that the early settlers of our region saw the natives they found as the so-called Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

  • If the early Jesuits saw the natives as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, then their efforts to convert them were clearly part of an effort to hasten the return of Jesus; who would return when the Jews accepted him as divine.
  • If the Jesuits saw the natives as the Ten Lost Tribes, this would also explain some of the colonial burial practices of natives, uncovered during archaeological excavations at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine.

Dr Reigelsperger serves as a guest speaker for the Florida Humanities Council educator workshops and the FHC Speakers Bureau. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Ph.D. in Latin American history. She received her master’s degree in history and a graduate certificate in Latin American studies from the University of Florida as well. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Flagler College.

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