Cumulative Days Riding: 159 Cumulative Days Blogging: 144
Today’s Mileage: 4 Total Trip Mileage: 1080
Today we will be visiting a major Catholic Historical site and Shrine in the St. Augustine area. Just north of the Castillo de San Marcos and the old city we find The Mission of Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.
This site traces its origins to the founding of the City of St. Augustine. On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed at this site and proclaimed it for Spain and Church. It was here that Menendez knelt to kiss a wooden cross presented to him by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, chaplain of his expedition. It was here that Fr. Lopez would celebrate the first parish Mass and begin America’s first Mission name Nombre de Dios (Name of God) and the Spanish settlers would begin the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk).
The mission and shrine site has numerous structures and includes a “walking tour” that allows pilgrims to circle the grounds and visit various significant locations. At the entrance of the grounds the Prince of Peace Church, built out of the “native stone” Coquina, greets visitors. It frames a large circular fountain and houses an imposing stained glass window depicting “the Holy Spirit.”
Continuing on the tour we see the imposing Great Cross built in 1966, along with the Prince of Peace church to commemorate the Four Hundredth anniversary of the Mission and the City. The cross is 208 feet tall and has been labeled a “Beacon of Faith” on the shores of the Matanzas River.
Next on our path we come across The Chapel of Our Lady of Le Leche. This area has been referred to as “America’s Most Sacred Acre.” Like many of the other structures the Chapel was also build from Coquina and reflects the Spanish mission style of the sixteen century. The Chapel houses the statue of Our Lady of La Leche and is described as a “special place of quiet prayer for those seeking Our Lady’s intercession.”
Just up the path we find a unique site called Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine. A beautiful mosaic of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is housed in a Byzantine style cupola. This gold-laden icon was a gift of the Byzantine Rite Catholics who make a bi-annual pilgrimage to the mission. The icon includes the image of Mary, the baby Jesus along with Archangels Michael and Gabriel.
The final two sites we visit on our tour are the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a gift from friends of a distinguished modern day missionary in Brazil. The shrine commemorates the 1531 visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico. Lastly, we see the Rustic Altar an outdoor altar commemorating the first parish mass celebrated in 1565.
We have during our virtual pilgrimage across Florida visited some two dozen separate Pilgrimage sites ranging from National Parks, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Monastery and Convents, Beach side parks and Art Galleries, to a Holocaust Memorial. Today’s site has significant historical religious importance for Christians and Catholics in particular. Clearly this site continues to add to its importance with a growing number of shrines, set in a peaceful and tranquil setting. It will be interesting to discover sites around the country that represent similar “firsts” for other Christian denominations (e.g., first Methodist church, first Quaker service, etc.).
I hope you have enjoyed the beautiful pictures of the mission’s grounds. Tomorrow we will be leaving St. Augustine and heading toward Jacksonville.
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