Scenic USA - Florida

Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine

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Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine - Florida

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     Although Ponce de Leon arrived on the North American continent in 1513, claiming La Florida for Spain,Ponce DeLeon Statue subsequent expeditions to the New World failed. Spain, eager to halt French intentions in Florida, enlisted the services of the most experienced admiral, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. The Spanish admiral successfully reached today's Cape Canaveral and made his way up the coast, arriving at Saint Augustine on September 6, 1565. Celebration of the Mass at this new settlement marked the beginning of the oldest permanently St Augustine Basilica Stained Glass occupied city in the United States.
     With the major European countries all struggling to maintain control over this newly discovered territory, St. Augustine was pillaged and burned several times over the next century. Saint Augustine citizens repeatedly rebuilt the city and their church, but numbers of the faithful continued to dwindle.
     To the south at New Smyrna, over 1400 hearty Minorcans, Italians and Greeks arrived in the New World to help carve out a 100,000 acre plantation. Plague, famine and tyrant Dr. Andrew Turnball eventually drove most of the Minorcans to St. Augustine in 1777. Arriving in a town without a farming class worked to the advantage of the new Minorcans. These new residents also kindled a rebirth of the Catholic Church.
     The Spanish Crown ordered St Augustine Basilica Interior the construction of a new parish church in 1786. Built of coquina stone, the cornerstone of the new church was laid in 1793. Suffering the fate of previous churches, a fire started in the St. Augustine Hotel and quickly spread to the ninety year old church. By this time, late in the 19th century, the Catholic Church was able to make a countrywide appeal to help rebuild the church. The present day church, almost identical to the original, followed a Spanish Renaissance style. A bell tower, steeple and gold cross were added to enhance the facade. This historic cathedral, placed on the National Register in 1970, is open for guided and self-guided tours during the week. Elevated to a Minor Basilica in 1976, this active church is quite proud to be part of the oldest continuous Catholic community in the United States.

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