A year-by-year summary of the history of Catholicism in Florida.
1513Pasqua Florida: Juan Ponce de Leon lands on the northeast coast of Florida and places a cross in the sand. “Thanks be to Thee, Oh Lord, Who has permitted me to see something new.”
1519Alonzo Alvarez discovers Florida is a peninsula not an island.
1521Ponce de Leon returns to Florida Gulf coast with priests. He and his crew are attacked by Indians. Many men are killed. They return to Cuba where Ponce dies of his wounds.
1528Panfilo de Navarez anchors near Tampa Bay with 600 colonists, soldiers, secular priests, and Franciscan friars. A large number march inland and lose contact with their ships. The fleet returns to Cuba. Navarez and all the priests die on the march to Mexico.
1535Four survivors of Navarez’s expedition reach Mexico.
1539Don Hernando de Soto with over 600 men and 12 priests anchor in the same harbor as Navarez. De Soto marches through the center of the state and winters near the present day Tallahassee. Four of the priests die.
1543The survivors of de Soto’s expedition reach Mexico. Only five of the original twelve priests survive.
1549Fr. Luis Cancer de Barbastro, OP, Fr. Diego de Penalosa, and Br. Fuentes are clubbed to death by Indians near Tampa Bay.
1559Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano leads an expedition to the Florida Gulf Coast with about a dozen ships. Aboard are settlers, soldiers, five priests, and one lay brother from the Order of St. Dominic.
1561The settlement, devastated by hurricane, hunger, and sickness, is abandoned.
1565Pedro Menendez de Aviles, with settlers with four priests, sails for Florida. They experience a hurricane and a skirmish with French galleons before anchoring in St. Augustine. They are welcomed by the Indians and given the chief’s house for their General. Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, carrying a cross and singing Te Deum Laudamus, greets General Menendez. It is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a solemn Mass is offered. The first Spanish mission of Nombre de Dios is built.
1566Jesuits Fr. Pedro Martinez, Fr. Juan Rogel and lay brother Francisco Villareal sail to Florida. Fr. Pedro Martinez is killed.
1572The Jesuits are recalled after the massacre in Virginia. Eight Jesuits give their lives in the rebellion. Frs. Segura and Luis de Quiros, Brs. Gabriel de Solis, Juan Bautista Mendez, Pedro de Linares, Sancho Zeballos, Gabriel Gomez, and Christobal Redondo are martyred.
1572/73St. Augustine moves from Anastasia Island to the mainland.
1573The first band of Franciscans arrives in St. Augustine. Only four or five priests are in the mission fields during this time. Secular priests administer to St. Augustine.
1586First Church in St. Augustine burnt down during a raid by England’s Captain Drake.
1587Thirteen Franciscan priests led by Fr. Alonso Reinoso are sent to the missions.
1592Only three priests and two lay brothers remain at the missions.
1595Fr. Francisco Marron arrives with a new band of Franciscans including Fr. Francisco Pareja. The friars visit numerous missions established within the interior of Florida and along the Atlantic Coastline into present-day Georgia.
1597Guale uprising in which five Franciscan were killed. A group of Guale Indians, angry over being allowed only one wife, start the revolt. Fr. Pedro de Corpa, Rodriguez, Miguel de Aunon, Francisco de Verascola, and Brother Antonio de Badajoz are martyred. Fr. Francisco de Avila suffered a living martyrdom for nine months as a prisoner of the Indians. Upon his rescue he refuses to testify against the Indians knowing the retaliatory measures that would be taken; not until years later did he write an account under obedience to his Superiors. The remains of three of the Fathers are later brought to St. Augustine and interred in the friary chapel.
1599Franciscan monastery in St. Augustine is burned down.
1605Small seminary opened by the Franciscans in St. Augustine.
1606The first official visit to Florida by Bishop Juan de las Cabezas de Altamirano. He visits all the missions, confirms over 2,000 souls, ordains 20 priests, and resolves jurisdictional matters between the Franciscans, secular priests, and the Governor.
1607English found Jamestown settlement.
1607Frs. Pareja and Penaranda convince King Phillip II not to abandon Florida. The plan involves transporting any Christian Indians that wish to leave. The priests make an appeal that the 6,000 Christian Indians would never leave their homes and that the missions need to remain to strengthen and spread the Faith. The King relents.
1607Fr. Martin Prieto leads the first exploratory trips west towards Tallahassee.
1608Fr. Prieto founds San Martin mission.
1612-15Forty-three Franciscans arrive to work in the missions.
1614-16The commissary general Fr. Luis Jeronimo de Ore, O.F.M. makes two visits to Florida and inspects all the missions. Special praise is given to Fr. Pareja for his compilation of books in the Timucuan language for the Indians. The Indians sing the Salve Regina on Saturdays and stay for Mass, know their morning and evening prayers, and are fervent in the Faith. The utter poverty that the missionaries endure is brought to light. Priests are lacking not only the basic necessities for life, but vestments and necessities for Mass!
1633First full time mission established near Tallahassee among the Apalache Indians.
1645Claudio Luis de Florencia is appointed the first deputy governor of the Apalachee Province, which lies between the Aucilla and Ochlockonee rivers. The Good Shepherd parish in Tallahassee becomes rapidly expanding mission.
1647The De la Florencia massacre: the Florencia family, including Claudio Luis, his wife, their teenage daughter, another married pregnant daughter and her husband and child, together with three unknown Franciscan friars, are lured away from nearby Mission San Luis to the neighboring Mission of San Antonio de Bacuqua in present-day Northeast Tallahassee. There they were all attacked and killed by the natives, including the unborn child who was cut from the mother’s womb. The teenage daughter, while watching the torture of her family, boldly proclaimed the Word of God. As a consequence, she had her breasts and tongue cut off as part of her martyrdom.
1655Seventy friars at work in the 38 doctrinas with 26,000 Christianized Indians.
1668St. Augustine’s dilapidated Church is ramsacked by English pirates. The poverty of the parish is apparent by the lack of even a single candle.
1672Castillo de San Marcos fort construction started.
1674Because on an insistent letter from Queen Mariana of Spain the second official visit to Florida by a Bishop, Bp. Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderon stays for ten months and writes a detailed description of his visit to all the missions, confirmations, and ordinations.
1680Northern Indians armed and allied by the English reach the northern mission areas. Pirates attack the coastal northern missions. The governor orders a general retreat.
1696Atoyquime Mission located along the St. John’s River administering to the Jororo Indians. Fr. Luis Sanchez, two altar boys, and a Christian Indian are killed.
1702Governor James Moore of South Carolina lays siege to the Castillo for 52 days. They burned down the Parish Church, the hermitage of Nuestra Senora de Leche, and the Francisan convent and chapel.
1702-08The English continue multiple raids on the Spanish missions, carrying away over 10,000 Indians.
1704January 26: James Moore attacks the mission village of La Conception de Ayubale. Three priest are martyred. Fr. Juan de Parga Araujo, Manuel de Mendoza and Miranda, and Christian men, women and children are tortured and slaughtered. “Make more fire so that our hearts may be allowed to suffer for our souls. We go to enjoy God as Christians,” and other encouraging words were heard by the few survivors.”
1704January 27: Antonio Cuipa Feliciana, Luis Domingo and about 170 other Christian Indians of all ages are impaled or burned at the stake by the English.
1704June 23: Fr. Manuel de Mendoza the Patale Mission is tortured and burned, then tied to the outdoor Stations of the Cross. He is joine din martyrdom by Balthazar Francisco, Don Pedro Mamolejo, seven Spanish muskateers, and eight Apalachee Christians.
1705Frs. Augustin Ponce de Leon, Tuburcio de Osorio, and Domingo Criado are slain. Fr. Ponce de Leon is the first American-born priest to be martyred; he is shot while trying to rescue the women and children of his village who being carried off as captives.
1719French warships siege and capture Pensacola. The two Franciscan priests are given safe passage to Cuba.
1728Englishman Col. John Palmer attacks Nombre de Dios. He kills thirty, wounds and captures more. The hermitage is burnt and the statutes carried away, including the Senora de la Leche.
1731Francisco de San Buenaventura is named auxiliary bishopr of Florida. He finds total disarray in not only the material conditions but moral and religious. He promotes religious processions, founds a school for young boys, and catechism classes for children.
1737Completion of on the new Franciscan monastery, made out of coquina rock and overlooking the Matanzas river.
1745Bp. Francisco de San Buenaventura leaves St. Augustine, having rejuvenated the Catholic faith and restored order to the town.
1763First Treaty of Paris signed. Florida is ceded to England.
1764No more than eight Catholic laymen remain in Florida
1768New Smyrna: Minorcans land to work on Andrew Turnball’s plantation.
1776-83American Revolution
1777Minorcans relocate to St. Augustine
1783-84The American Revolution ends. Florida is returned to Spain under the Second Treaty of Paris.
1792Construction started on a new Parish Church – now the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.
1821Florida becomes a U.S. territory
1845Florida becomes the 27th state
1861-65American Civil War
1866Sisters of St. Joseph arrive in St. Augustine and open schools.
1870Diocese of St. Augustine established. Augustin Verot is the first Bishop.