A mysterious building dating to the Spanish colonial era goes on display in St. Augustine.
For American Catholics, Florida is a lot more significant than the attention it gets. The very first Mass was celebrated there, in 1565, in a field in what is now the city of St. Augustine.
Today, the site is a place of pilgrimage: the Mission Nombre de Dios and the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.
But it’s also a place of mystery, one that University of Florida archaeologist Kathleen Deagan is working to unravel.
It turns out that a local priest-archaeologist, Fr. Charles Spellman, uncovered the remnants of what is thought to be the first stone building and shrine dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche back in the 1950s. It was a building believed to have been constructed in 1677. According to the St. Augustine Record, Fr. Spellman discovered artifacts and made a map of the site, but he never shared his discovery with the archaeological community.
“It got covered up and everyone forgot about it,” Deagan said.
Fr. Spellman’s report was buried in the church’s archive until 2009 when it was rediscovered. Deagan, in collaboration with Flagler College in St. Augustine, is continuing the priest’s work by attempting to making an actual dig.
“The goal is to completely expose it and document it in order to try to determine the function,” Deagan told the Record. “Was it a church, a chapel, a convent? We know a lot about the mission, but we don’t understand much about this building.”
Among other things, Deagan’s team might answer questions about how the mission and city of St. Augustine interacted with each other and how the Native people may have intermingled with Spanish settlers.
Meanwhile, the public will be allowed to view the archaeological site until November 1.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?