An ongoing archaeological dig at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine is now open to the general public through Dec. 13. The excavation has uncovered the foundations of the 17th century stone chapel dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of the Milk and a Happy Delivery), and provided valuable insight into the day to day lives of the Franciscan Friars, the Timucua Indians, and others who resided at the mission for almost two centuries.
The Franciscan Friars arrived here, at the site where Pedro Menéndez had come ashore in 1565 and founded the city of St. Augustine, as early as 1587 – nearly 200 years before the establishment of the California missions. This relatively unknown period in our country’s history is coming more clearly into focus as scholars study the archaeological site and Spanish-Timucua documents.
Under the direction of Archaeologist Dr. Kathleen Deagan and Historian-Theologian Dr. Timothy Johnson of Flagler College, a team of archaeologists, volunteers, faculty and students from Flagler College are painstakingly uncovering details of the chapel building itself and items such as Native and Spanish pottery, food remains, glass bottle fragments, nails, and beads providing contextual insight into the culture and life at the mission.
America’s oldest shrine, Our Lady of La Leche, was recently designated a National Shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The devotion to Our Lady was fostered in Florida by Franciscan missionaries shortly after they arrived and established Mission Nombre de Dios in 1587. A small convent was added to the stone chapel during the early 18th century to house the friars who tended the shrine.
The Our Lady of La Leche National Shrine at Mission Nombre de Dios is located at 101 San Marco Ave., St. Augustine. This sacred and historic property is owned and operated by the Diocese of St. Augustine and is open to the public daily. The excavation site is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There is no charge for admission, and free parking is available. You can follow this exciting archaeological excavation by visiting the blog: #digNombredeDios hosted by FPAN at Flagler College.
The archaeological dig is made possible thanks to the support of the Diocese of St. Augustine, the Academy of American Franciscan History, The Historic St. Augustine Research Institute and Flagler College. This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources and the State of Florida.
For more information, call the Shrine at (904) 824-2809.