Listen to Unearthing Florida
       
  Week 8   Churches/Religion Program Menu
           
  Program 36 Pascua Florida
      When Spanish Conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon set foot on Florida’s shores in April 1513, he named the area “la Florida” to honor the Catholic Eastertime Celebration Pascua Florida.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

The Spanish were the first Europeans to arrive in the state and from the very beginning religion played a defining role in its future landscape. Spanish explorers, wielding swords and eager for riches, were quickly followed by Catholic missionaries zealously seeking to convert the Native people. 

By the late 1600s Spanish churches were erected at both the Atlantic and Gulf sides of the state.

Archaeological investigations have located several of these early Spanish colonial churches.  Remarkable discoveries include the foundation of perhaps the oldest stone church in the United States at St. Augustine, a significant Native American cemetery at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, and a rich assemblage of religious items from the church cemetery at Presidio Santa Maria in Pensacola.

     
  Program 37 Nombre de Dios
      In 2011 archaeologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History uncovered an extraordinary find- the possible ruins of the oldest stone church in the state.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Originally built in 1677, the church at the Spanish mission of Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine was one of the largest erected during colonial Spanish Florida. 

Constructed by order of the Spanish Governor, at the time the church was an opulent and splendidly decorated building. Spanish records reveal the building was a source of pride, but that was not enough to save it from the British who destroyed it in the early 1700s.

It was rediscovered by archaeologists Kathleen Deagan and Gifford Waters after they found clues to its whereabouts in historical documents from the 1950s.            

They found the actual coquina stone and oyster shell foundations of the church that are 80 by 30 feet in size. Many artifacts dating to the colonial use of the church were also found.

     
  Program 38 Nuestra de Soledad
      Human burials under the floor of a catholic church in St. Augustine highlight the dramatic cultural shifts that occurred there centuries ago.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Originally built by the Spanish sometime shortly after 1572, the chapel of Nuestra Senora de la Soledad was used by both the Spanish and British through the early 18th century.

The Spanish and British control of this building is reflected in the different types of burial practices uncovered under the church and in the church yard by archaeologists Kathleen Deagan and Joan Koch.

The Spanish and British burials were quite distinct. For example, while most the older Spanish burials were wrapped in shrouds with the individual’s arms crossed over their chests, the British burials were placed in coffins with the individual’s arms at their side. In addition, Spanish burials were oriented to the east, while the British burials were oriented to the west.

     
  Program 39 Santa Maria
      For the people who lived at Pensacola’s first permanent Spanish colonial settlement, isolated on the frontier, religion provided them with the means to cope with harsh conditions.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense and this is Unearthing Florida.

Like Santa Maria de Galve, each settlement had churches and cemeteries, and priests, who sanctified and kept records of births, deaths, baptisms, and marriages. 

At this settlement, prisoner and governor alike, were catholic and went to the same church.  But, churches were special and they were built with the very best materials available.  At presidio Santa Maria that included the community’s only stained glass windows and brick floor. 

University of West Florida archaeologists also found many catholic artifacts.  Rosary beads were found all over this settlement, while the most beautiful were on the church floor.  We also found catholic medallions, one of which was buried with one of the settlers.

     
  Program 40 Mission San Luis
      A 17th century Spanish church located at the Mission San Luis site in Tallahassee has provided the rare opportunity to understand these special places.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Archaeologist Bonnie McEwan and her team found that the church was a large rectangular wooden structure 110 feet long by 50 feet wide with plastered walls. Large amounts of wrought iron nails, as well as charred wood posts used in its construction, were recovered from the site.

They located pieces of the base of the limestone baptismal at the entrance of the church and two rooms on either side of the altar. Near these rooms they found thousands of olive jar fragments, which originally contained the wine and water used to serve the Apalachee Indians during Mass.

The depth of the cultural impact of the mission site on the Native population was fully unveiled when archaeologists dug under the church floor.

Here they found a cemetery of 900 Native Americans who chose to be buried beneath the church in the Christian custom.

     
        Previous | Next
        Unearthing Florida Home