Updated: Aug 8
Deus Meus Et Omnia.
In the peace of His Majesty, Our Lord Jesus. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary be our refuge. Ave María! The month of August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Similarly, the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady is also celebrated this month, among other feasts like the comeration of St. Dominic of the Holy Rosary and St. Maximilian Kolbe of the Immaculata. A month dedicated to the Immaculate Queen of heaven, this month also celebrates another anniversary, one of great importance to the Christians of La Florida. On the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, August 15th, 1559, the Holy Mass was said on the shores of Pensacola by Fray Pedro de Feria, OP. This awesome occasion, which occurred six years before the “first Mass” of St. Augustine, ushered in Christendom’s earliest known multi-year settlement in the United States. The Mass was said by Dominican friars who accompanied Tristan de Luna on his expedition. He was specifically chosen for his devout faith, to establish a settlement in Pensacola. The exact site of the first Mass is marked by a 10-foot-high Cross atop a sand dune located in Pensacola Beach. Erected in the 1950s by the Knights of Columbus, the Cross has survived every hurricane and storm since it was raised. There is no scientific explanation as to why the dune and the cross have been spared so many times by over a hundred storms and hurricanes.
The Spanish established the settlement of Santa Maria de Ochuse, larger than St. Augustine and Santa Elena on the coast of South Carolina. The settlement consisted of a chapel, houses, workshops, farms, and even a man made lake. Supposedly, after a hurricane struck the settlement in 1561, the Spanish abandoned Pensacola. Largely accepted by local historic associations, many debate the total Spanish abandonment, claiming that after the hurricane the settlement could have been largely abandoned by civilians and a small Spanish garrison was left. In 1693, the Spanish resettled Pensacola, re-christening Pensacola Bay as Bahía Santa María and establishing the settlement of Santa María de Galve, with a village, Chapel, and the presidio (Fort) San Carlos, dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, present day Fort Barrancas. In 1702, the English began their assault on the Missions in Florida. The English settlers from the Carolinas largely used Creek braves to assault the missions and slaughtered thousands of Catholic Apalachee and Timuca . Many of the Apalachee refugees fled to Pensacola. In 1706, two Franciscans priests Fray Pedro de Galíndez and Fray Lucio de Herrera, were traveling from the Chapel of Presidio San Carlos to a fighting position further west along the coast. Aside walking sticks and their breviaries, the Priests carried with them the Most Blessed Sacrment. In present day Perdido, the priests were stopped by English scouts and a dozen Creeks. Father Herrera slowly attempted to flee with the Blessed Sacrament while the older Father Galíndez attempted to distract them. Father Galindez was ordered to spit into his Breviary and instead kissed the book, at the orders of an English officer the Creeks hacked him death. Father Herrera was shot in the lower back by two arrows causing him to fall. Bleeding on the ground Father Herrera began consuming the Blessed Sacrment, which had scattered throughout the trail floor. Father Herrera began dragging himself to recover and consume the Holy Eucharist. Despite being shot by another arrow, this did not stop the Franciscan. “Deus Meus eat Omnia-My God and My all!” He exclaimed as the order was given to strike him with a tomahawk. It is not known what happened to the bodies of the two, some say they were thrown into the Pensacola bay, others say the Creeks ate them. The English would be attacked and defeated by Spanish Forces. Captured Creeks would tell of the two Franciscans and their martyrdom. Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Perdido, FL, is believed to have been built on the site of their martyrdom, dedicating a stained-glass window to the twoartyrs. The first Catholics to die for the faith in Pensacola.
On August 26, 1712, a large force of English milita and Creeks attacked Presidio Santa Maria de Galve in Pensacola and later French Mobile. During the assault, Father Phielipe Orbalaes, of the order of St. John of God, was killed along with three other Spanish soldiers. Father Orbalaes was shot to death with arrows while administering the last rites to dying soldiers. Several more Spanish were captured by the English and Creeks to include Fray Tiburcio de Osorio, of the Order Friars Minor. Father Osorio, a native of Havana, was taken the homeland of the Creeks, which was in present-day Georgia. The Creeks were astounded to find he could fluently speak their language. The Creek Shamans commanded him to join in their ceremonies. Father Tiburcio instead insisted they cease worshiping idols and he would teach them the True God. Father Tiburcio was shot dead by arrows and then eaten by the Creeks. Father Tiburcio had a disease which was spread by his flesh amongst the tribe, the Creeks believing his habit and Breviary to be cursed, returned it to the Spanish in St. Augustine and told them of his death. When word reached Havana of his Martyrdom, a steong devotion began. This devotion has survived to modern times and was brought to Florida when Catholics fled Cuba’s Communist revolution. Father Tiburcio is depicted in a modernist mural over the altar of the National shrine of Nuestra Senora Del Caridad, in Miami Florida. About 6 weeks after his death, a group of Creek chiefs offered their “obedience” to the Spanish in St. Augustine. In 1719, a French fleet surrounded the Pensacola settlement and the Spanish surrendered the area to the Kingdom of France. In 1722, the French abandoned Pensacola after a hurricane hit the city. The Spanish returned the same year and established another Presidio (Fort) in the modern site of Fort Pickens naming the fort and island Santa Rosa after St. Rose of viterbo. In 1754 the Spanish established Another village and fort known as Presidio San Miguel de Pensacola which encompasses most of the modern downtown district. The final martyrs of Florida were three female Apalachee, consecrated virgins who were praying in the chapel of San Miguel when the city was attacked by English milita. The three were slaughtered by the English and their heads were placed upon the altar before the chapel was set on fire. In 1763, Spain ceded Florida to the English and the Spanish inhabitants abandoned the area. The English named Pensacola as the Captial of their West Florida colony. The English introduced Protestantism, brothels, and imported slavery to Pensacola. They also improted a large number of Creeks, who were allowed to practice their pagan customs and live in adultery. France ceded their Louisiana territory to Spain, and his majesty, King Carlos III named the energetic military officer Bernardo de Galves as governor of the newly Spanish Louisiana territory. In the 1770s, rebellion grew in the English colonies, thus king Carlos III formally declared war on England. The English who occupied French Mobile, Baton Rouge, and Biloxi as well as Spanish Florida, were planning a massive assault on Spanish controlled city of New Orleans. General Bernardo de Galves discoeverd the English plans and prepared to strike first. On August 27, 1779, General Galves began his successful Holy reconquest of the Gulf Coast, to include Baton Rouge, Biloxi, Mobile, and all formally French territories lost to the English. In 1781, General Galvez led a holy Alliance which consisted in Spanish, French regulars and militiamen, native Americans, as well as blacks freed from English slavery and Irish, Italians, and Greeks also liberated from the English. General Galves kept by him at all times thes standard of the Spanish Empire, the Holy Cross of St. Andrew. He placed the Italian and Irish regiments under Captian Arthur O’Neill. The Spanish swiftly retook Fort Santa Rosa along with the entire barrier island. However, Ships could travel no closer to Pensacola without being in range of English cannons. Captain José Calvo de Irazabal, in command of the Spanish fleet, refused General Galves’ order to advance to Pensacola. As the governor, General Galves boarded one of four French ships from Louisiana and said his famous saying: Yo Solo, I alone. He order his ship to advance into Pensacola Bay which swiftly out maneuvered the English positions.
The cowardly Captain Calvo was sent back to Havana, while the rest of the fleet crossed the Pensacola bay. On March 25 the Spanish regulars and their French volunteers charged the beaches and successfully repelled an attack by pro-British Choctaw. The Spanish dug into the sand dunes and prepared for siege. Among these trenches and fighting positions, the Spanish accomplished a feat of military engineering, constructing a covered road to shield the troops from the constant fire of English. A second attack by the Choctaw and Creeks occurred 19 April, which was successfully repelled by the Spanish again. The following day more Spanish and French troop reinforced the Holy Alliance. The Holy Alliance was met on the 24 April by yet another Creek attack which was entirely routed by the Irish regiment. Assuming the natives had inflicted more damage the English led their first formal assault on the Spanish positions from Queen’s reboubt and were swiftly driven back by Captian O'Neill and his Irish brigade. On April 30, the Spanish batteries opened fire, the start of the full-scale attack on british Pensacola. A storm forced the ships to flee the bay and flooded the trenches, General Galves however kept his infantry fighting and ordered an extra ration of brandy to keep up their spirits, which worked extremely well, especially among the Irish regiment, I assume. At the suggestion of the head chaplain, Capuchin Father Cyril de Barcelon, General Galves began an army wide novena to St. Michael On 1 May , the official patron of Pensacola. On 3 May he received a gift of dried meat from a creek chief, one of the English's most crucial allies. General Galves refused to accept a gift from a non-catholic but offered to purchase the meat, the chief accepted the offer. Galves then extorted the creeks to accept the catholic faith and warned the British-allied Creeks and Choctaws of the novena and to cease their attacks. On 8 May, 1781, as General Galves was within sight of the enemy and praying aloud the St. Michael prayer, a Spanish cannon ball struck the English black powder depot. A huge explosion wrecked the walls of Fort St. George (Fort San Miguel) and killed 57 English regulars immediately. “Forward in the Name of God!” Cried General Galves with his sword unsheathed.
The Forces of the Holy Alliance stromed the fort. Overwhelmed by the Spanish firepower, General John Campbell of the British Royal Army formally surrendered just two days later from the Prince of Wales Redoubt. The English garrison raised a white flag over Fort George at 1500, on May 10, 1781. General Gálvez personally accepted the surrender of General Campbell, ending British sovereignty in West Florida after signing the capitulation. The terms of capitulation included the entirety of Florida, and large quantities of war material and supplies. When the city was taken, they found the Catholic chapels had been entirely destroyed. General Goves burnt the Protestant chapel, their liteture and the brothels. General Gálvez appointed Captian O'Neill as the Spanish Governor of West Florida. After the victory, General Galves and Governor O'Neill ordered a parish to be established in honor of St. Michael. Father Cyril blessed an old warehouse on the waterfront for a church, permanently establishing the parish of St. Michael the Archangel in downtown Pensacola. Father Pedro Velez, the Spanish chaplain who was ordered stay with the garrison in Pensacola was the first pastor of this new parish. Today this parish is known as the Basilica of St. Michael. Father Cyril was named auxiliary bishop for Louisiana and the Floridas in 1787. In 1803 after the Louisiana purchase, Pensacola fell under the dioceses of Havana. In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the untied states, though thrice Andrew Jackson had sacked Pensacola. In 1825, Florida and Alabama were erected into a vicariate-apostolic with Father Michael Portier of New Orleans as Bishop. With this transfer of the territory from Spain to the United States, many Spanish subjects chose to leave to Cuba, especially those of native and African descent. A Mexican priest, Canon Matías Monteagudo, ministered to Pensacola, while Father Andrew Poujade, from France, also assisted from Mobile. Bishop Portier, who had arrived in Mobile in 1826, had discovered that, although his territory seemed huge, the only three churches were St. Augustine Church in San Augustin, St. Michael's in Pensacola and Immaculate Conception in Mobile. In the beginning of 1831, Bishop Portier presided at the laying of the cornerstone on February 6th, 1831 of the new St. Michael Church. By 1833, the building at the corner of Jefferson and Church streets was successfully completed. Father John Symphorian Guinand, another newly ordained priest from France, was assigned to St. Michael as permanent pastor.
By 1850, Pensacola had a few more churches. The Civil War, began in 1861, Father Patrick Coyle of St. Michael’s was commissioned a Confederate chaplain and Bishop Quinlin of Mobile sent six Daughters of Charity to staff the military hospital. In May of 1862, the Confederates abandoned Pensacola and 90% of the population left, the sisters returned to Mobile and the local government evacuated to Alabama. During the Union sack St. Michael Church was burnt down by the union. After the War, Bishop Quinlin immediately went about securing funds to rebuild St. Michael, and a new church was dedicated in 1867. This church building on New Street (now Government Street) was near present-day Jefferson Street. This is the same church, now basilica, which stands to this day. In 1882, Father John Baasen was named Pastor of St. Michael’s. Born in Prussia, this zealous missionary had traveled throughout Alabama and West Florida by horseback and train, prior to assuming his new post. But no sooner had he arrived, then St. Michael Church was damaged by fire during a raging Yellow Fever epidemic. Fr. Baasen had also contacted the disease while attending sick parishioners and, according to accounts of the time, was carried out of the burning rectory on a cot. The Church was restored in 1886. St. Michael Church was elevated to the status of a minor basilica on December 28, 2011 by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. In 1879, a colored Catholic school opened with a chapel of similar name, staffed by the Sisters of Mercy, the first school in all of Florida since the Spanish times to accept black people. In 1891, this Chapel was built into St. Joseph Church and convent. Lastly, In 1905, the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was constructed and dedicated. In 1956, it's congregation moved into a larger Church structure and the Church was sold. Eventually, in 1965 the Church of the Sacred Heart was sold to a Protestant organization and is used by them to this day. This Church of the Sacred Heart, stands as a type for all of Pensacola. The Old forgotten Church of Sacred Heart, with a history twice as old, now in the hands of her revolutionary enemies. Peancola, the site of the first Holy Mass, seven martyrdoms, and the Holy Reconqustia of Florida by Christendom, largely ignored by the faithful of modern times.
Holy Mary, Queen assumed into Heaven, with Holy Michael, prince of the heavenly armies, St. Charles Borromeow and St. Rosa of Viterbo, pray for us and especially you city.