|The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
St. Augustine Florida
GPS 29.8912857°N 81.3123677°W
While the Cathedral was built in the Second Spanish Period its roots were established in the First Spanish Period.
The stones in the building were part of the earlier churches and buildings. The stones from Virgin of Solitude (La
Soledad), La Leche and Guadalupe were used.
Father Hassett educated in Salamanca, Spain wrote a letter to the captain-general of Cuba, Bernardo de Galvez in
1784 which started the process to a new parish church but it took two full years before the King replied. The first
parish church was built in 1572 Nuestra Senora de los Remedios. It was wooden and close to the harbor. Sir
Francis Drake burned this church in 1586. The church was rebuilt but burned in a fire in 1599. The 3rd church was
erected on this site in 1602. It burned in 1702 with Moore's attack and burning of the city. A foundation was begun
for a new parish church near the Governor's House but was never completed before the end of the 1st Spanish
period. La Soledad had been rebuilt by the British as St. Peter's (Church of England). After the British left the
Spanish tore down the church, the British tower and spire. When the Spanish returned they used the second floor
old Bishop's house as a church. The British had converted the old Bishop's house into a statehouse.
The construction on the Cathedral began on December 8, 1786 when the King ordered a new house of worship to
be built in St. Augustine. The plans were crafted by Engineer Mariano de la Rocque whose plans underwent
several revisions for cost reasons. By the end of 1793 la Rocque had received crown approval and secured the
donations of tools, lime, and lumber. The first roof was slate but it was replaced by wooden shingles.
The construction contract was given to Miguel Isnardy a merchant entrepreneur and a former frigate captain.
Frigate captain meant that Isnardy had been educated in mathematics and was experienced in measuring vertical
angles and was experienced in using triangulation and the quadrant. The cornerstone was laid in 1793. The
governor responsible for the construction of the Cathedral was Juan Nepolmucena de Quesada who was governor
from 1790-96. Sometime after the church was started de la Rocque was replaced by a new royal engineer - Pedro
Diaz Berrio. If you look at the original plans of la Rocque and the finished product, it's not the same. It is unknown
who made the changes in construction.
When construction began the cost was estimated at 16,602 pesos (about $24,903) at a time when carpenters and
masons worked for less than $2.00 a day. The Bishop of Havana Felipe José de Tres-Palacios y Verdeja
returned 3,537 pesos, the value of the church goods sent there from St. Augustine when the English took over in
1763. Don Francisco Felipe Fatio and Don Miguel Isnardy contributed 1,000 feet of boards each. Francisco
Pellicer donated 500 feet of boards. Carpenters and masons donated labor. Many parishioners gave chickens. The
Royal Treasury gave 16,905 pesos (about $25,359)
Isnardy was paid his contract of 5,000 pesos in five parts: 1. When the contract was signed. 2. The walls were 1/3
completed. 3. When the walls were finished. 4. When the roof was begun and 5. When the work was completed
The St. Augustine Cathedral/Basilica was completed in 1797. It was dedicated on the Feast Day of the Immaculate
Conception on December 8, 1797. Father Michael O'Reilly for the dedication carried the Blessed Sacrament from
the old bishop's house (now the location of Trinity Episcopal) to the new church. The parishioners followed him in
the procession. Fr. Miguel O’Reilly would be the first pastor of what is now the Cathedral Basilica and vicario of
East Florida. He served from 1797 to 1812.
One of the original bells bears the inscription, "Sancte Joseph Ora Pro Nobis D 1682 making it one of the oldest
bells in the United States.
The Cathedral was originally Spanish Mission style. It represents the oldest Catholic congregation in the United
States going back to 1565. The original church was 41 feet wide and 124 feet long with walls 24 feet high and 3
feet thick to accommodate 550 people. It is built out of coquina like the Castillo. The first building consisted of the
oblong quadrangle 120 x 42 feet, which forms the nave of the present building. Windows 16 feet from the ground,
provided ventilation. The upper Gallery was for the choir and the lower one for slaves (still a question of where free
persons of colour were allowed to sit.) The front facade rose above the roof and formed a belfry in espadana style
with 5 arches. The four bells were placed within the top four arches and a window for the choir was placed
between the lower two arches. There was also a presbytery and sacristy.
The front entrance on the plaza was a large wood door with wood panels and half-round wood head set in a arch
flanked by paired fluted Doric columns.(See Doric Entablature) The columns support a full entablature with triglyphs
alternating with metopes.
The exterior walls were plastered with white plaster made from oyster shells.
Father O'Reilly and Father Félix Varela
Fr. Miguel O’Reilly, was an Irish priest. He bought a property in 1785 that became the parish rectory on what is
today 38 Aviles St. In this house, from 1794 to 1802, that Father O’Reilly privately taught Father Félix Varela. Fr.
Varela is on the path for sainthood is now is revered as much for his tireless work on behalf of the Irish immigrants
in 19th century New York City as one of the Fathers of Cuban independence. Father Varela was originally buried
in Tolomato cemetery but in 1911 his remains were moved to Cuba. Father O'Reilly included a clause in his will
that left the property to a religious order devoted to education. Today the former parish rectory is owned by the
Sisters of St. Joseph.
Buried in the Cathedral
There are three people buried inside the Cathedral: Father Pedro Camps, Don Miguel Isnardy, and Father Narciso
Father Narciso Font was born in 1762 in Villa Nueva y Gertru the son of Don Francisco Font and Dona Catalina
Fuster. He was a Franciscan. Father Narciso Font died within a year of his arrival in St. Augustine (January 13,
1793).He was to be the replacement for Father Camps.
Father Pedro Camps had died on May 19, 1790 at the age of 61 and had been buried in Tolomato Cemetery.
When his tomb was damaged a stone broke his leg. He was found to be in a remarkable state of preservation. The
Minorcans insisted that his body be moved into the new church. Bishop Louis Penalver y Cardenas of Louisiana
and the Floridas gave permission for the removal of the body on May 20, 1800. Father Narciso Font had also
been buried in Tolomato. Father Font was moved on May 27, 1800.
Don Miguel Isnardy was born in Andalusia, Spain. He married Dona Juana de la Torre in 1755. They had four
children that died before him. His home was on Marine and Cadiz Streets where he kept the valuables of the
church. The Bishop gave Don Miguel Isnardy, the contractor, the title of Steward of the building. He decided that
he would also like to be buried in the church. The location was chosen by Antonio Llambias, in the presence of the
constable who along with Martin Hernandez, the master carpenter, and Juan Triay prepared the place of his burial
at Isnardy's expense. He died on April 8, 1803 and was buried in the vault that he had prepared for himself. The
new church Stewart was Don Domingo Reyes.
Jurisdiction of the Church
When the Cathedral was started the original jurisdiction was Havana. This was transferred to Louisiana. In 1803
Louisiana became part of the United States. The jurisdiction of Louisiana was shifted to Baltimore. The jurisdiction
of Florida was given back to the Spanish and the Bishop of Havana, Cuba. After the transfer to the United States
Florida was administered through Charleston. This would be followed by a transfer to Mobile and after that St.
Augustine was on its own.
Disposition of the Cathedral After the Americans
After Americans took over there was a dispute on the title of the property. The question was Church owned by the
congregation or was it owned by the Crown (which meant that it was the property of the United States government
under the treaty with Spain.) It would take an act of Congress on February 8, 1827 to clear the title. Section 3 of
An Act to provide for the confirmation and settlement of private land claims in East Florida reads:
"That the commons in the city of St. Augustine be, and the same are hereby, confirmed to the corporation of said
city, to the same extent that they were used, claimed and enjoyed under the Spanish government. And the parochial
church and burying ground in possession of the Roman Catholic congregation are confirmed to them; and the old
Episcopal Church lot is, hereby, relinquished and confirmed to the Incorporated Episcopal church of St. Augustine:
Provided always, That the grants in this section specified shall forever inure to the purposes for which they are
confirmed, and shall not be alienated without the consent of Congress."
This issue was still being fought through 1848. (See Father Madeore's Memorial to Congress , Cathedral Claim
for printed copy of parish petition with names, Depositions and notes and memorials by petitioners)
Father Edward Francis Mayne
On July 23, 1823 the parishioners established a "Board of Wardens of the Catholic Congregation of St.
Augustine," which was incorporated by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida.
As the wardens of the church owned the Church the years that followed were ones of conflict between the
wardens and the priests who were sent to serve them. At time the wardens took upon themselves the liberty of
locking the priests out of the church. Geronimo Alvarez and Pedro Benet were the two leaders of the wardens.
They were elected to the warden in April of 1827.
Ralph Waldo Emerson reports on the pastor prior to Father Mayne in his Memo St. Augustine March 1, 1827:
"The worthy father of the Catholic church here by whose conversation i was not a little scandalized has lately been
arrested for debt & imprisoned in St. Marks. This exemplary divine on the evening of his arrest said to Mr.
Crosby, "If you can change ten dollars for me I will pay you the four which I owe you." Crosby gave him six which
the father put in his waistcoat pocket, &, being presently questioned, stoutly denied that he had any thing from him.
but Crosby was the biggest & compelled him to restore the money. I went yesterday to the Cathedral, full of great
corse toys, & heard this priest say mass, for his creditors have been indulgent & released him for the present."
In November 1828 Bishop England of Charleston appointed Father Edward Francis Mayne pastor of the St.
Augustine Church at the request of the Bishop of Florida and Alabama. On January 5, 1829 a funeral service was
to be held for Jose M. Sanchez a former treasurer of the Board of Wardens. Alvarez told Father Mayne that the
service could not take place in the church because Sanchez had been a member of the Free Masons. Father
Mayne had to conduct the funeral at the cemetery. To confuse matters further Bishop Portier newly installed for
Florida and Alabama appointed two priests Father Nicholas Bourdet and Fredrick Rost to serve in St. Augustine.
Both soon left St. Augustine.
In December 1830 Father Mayne appealed to the civil courts for a writ of mandamus ordering the wardens to
allow him into the church. Their decision one year later was in favor of the wardens.
Bishop Porter called a meeting of parishioners and wardens on February 14, 1832. The congregation and warden
came to agreement that they would follow the decisions of the Bishop.
In 1836 the congregation asked the Bishop of Havana for help:
"Your excellency, the Bishop of Havana
The undersigned residents and Catholic parishioners of the parish church of Saint Augustine, East Florida, for
themselves and in the name of their fellow members, with the most humble and profound respect, appear and say
to Your Excellency: that being full of love and zeal for the Apostolic Roman Catholic Religion that they profess and
considering their obligation to protect and sustain that divine faith with the proper and necessary decency, they find
themselves urgently impelled to bring to Your Excellency's attention that the church and other property of this
parish and consequently to the lack of means or funds for its repair. This circumstance recalls to them the justness
and care with which the divine faith was conducted in this city under the protection of the Government of His
Catholic Majesty. As true Spanish Catholics or, for the most part, their descendants, they now cannot but see the
baneful fate to which our religion is exposed unless effective measures are undertaken for the complete repair,
adornment and preservation that this sanctuary so desperately needs.
Your Excellency must surely know that the system of the United States is to permit and tolerate all faiths. In this city
there are various Protestant denominations whose churches are kept in the best and most proper condition and
whose adherents strive to make converts. Our Catholic youth are rapidly increasing, and would it not be painful if,
their fathers having failed them, they should turn to those churches, because the practice of their own holy religion
was not available to them? This unfortunate consequence, Your Excellency, must surely result from the great
poverty in which we find ourselves.
Since this unhappy population was ceded to the United States, we have experienced nothing but mishaps and
misfortunes. The severe and, in this climate, unheard of freezes of last winter utterly destroyed our luxuriant orange
trees, whose fruit was the only means many of us had, besides our own labor, to support and educate our families
with some comfort. Our church has shared in this general misfortune, for she has suffered the annual loss of some
four hundred pesos, whose sum was almost the only income she had available to attend to her indispensable
ministries and to liquidate, in part, the debts she had contracted for the repair of two houses in her possession.
And as the culmination of our unhappiness and ruin, we presently find ourselves under arms night and day,
protecting our lives and homes against the savage Indians that have risen en masse against the government, burning
and committing all kinds of attacks, plunderings, and murders in the countryside and even in the vicinity of this city,
because of which the inhabitants have seen fit to abandon their estates to the fury of the savages and to save their
lives by taking refuge in the towns.
These last two calamities have put an end to our hopes for future remedy. Consequently we find ourselves, in our
critical and indigent situation, compelled to seek, with all humility and respect, the protection of Your Excellency in
order that, by means of your benevolent intercession and guidance, our brothers in religion of that diocese be asked
to make a pecuniary, charitable contribution in order that our church building be properly repaired and decorated.
Our parish priest, Don Claudio Rampon, the bearer of this petition, has voluntarily offered to collect it, for which he
has all power and authority to that effect.
Permit us, Your Excellency, being satisfied and hopeful of the success of this our humble and reverent petition, to
pray to the Supreme Being to preserve Your Excellency's life for many years to come.
The Catholic Church would always have a role in the education of children. The main struggle for the church would
be the funding. It would constantly apply for public money and through the 1880s to the early 1900s would receive
public funds for the pay of their teachers.
April 24, 1843: The Rev'd C. Rampon, pastor of the Catholic congregation of St. Augustine, wishes to afford a
remedy to the evils resulting from the want of education and abandonment in which the children of poor parents are
brought up from the absence of a public free school in the place; appeals to a grievous, enlightened and liberal
community to aid him in building a more capricious room than the one he now occupies for the same purpose. (City
chambers) Thus enabling him to offer instruction to a graded number, and enlarging the usefulness of the poor
school already in existence under his care.
The Sisters of Mercy were using the public school building that would after the War of the Rebellion become public
September 1, 1860
The Sisters of Mercy respectfully represent to your honorable body that they keep an Academy and free
school for the children of this city ; and that owing to the large number attending the latter school together with
the absence of applicants in their present school house commodious enough to permit a sufficient circulation of
pure air so desirable at all times but so indispensably necessary where a large number (like that of their pupils)
are collected together find themselves obliged to procure a more suitable place to keep the free school. In
virtue of the above mentioned consideration. They apply to your honorable body and respectfully solicit the
temporary loan of the upper room of the building erected in Hospital Street for public education under such
regulations as may appear just and reasonable. They also take this occasion to state that their schools are open
to all without distinction of creed so as to come within the intentions of those who have appropriated funds for
public education. St. Augustine August 24th 1860
The Sisters of Mercy beg leave to return their grateful acknowledgements to the Honorable Members of the
City Council for the temporary loan of the upper room in the building erected in Hospital Street for
Educational purposes; and pledge themselves to comply with all the requisition of said Council.
African-Americans and the Cathedral
In the beginning the slaves were assigned to the slave gallery. It is not know where free people of color sat during
the services. The church married and educated African-Americans before the War of the Rebellion. See school
census of 1850 for names of children.
Marriage license of Free Persons of Color
Deposition of Thomas Hernandez for marriage of Jane Lancaster
After the War when the concept of equality or segregation was debated the Cathedral resolved the problem with
the creation of St. Benedict the Moor
Creation of the Diocese of St. Augustine
In 1857, all of Florida east of the Apalachicola River was established as a Vicariate Apostolic and placed under
the leadership of Bishop Agustin Verot. In 1861, Verot was named as Bishop of Savannah while retaining his
duties in Florida. On March 11, 1870, the Diocese of St. Augustine was created and Bishop Verot, at his request,
was named its first bishop. The parish church had become a cathedral.
The War of the Rebellion and the Cathedral
Bishop Verot was for the most part out of St. Augustine during the war but he did make several noted visits. He
had been appointed to the see of Savannah but was still responsible for St. Augustine. The priests and the Sisters
of Mercy requested Oaths of Neutrality from the U. S. Army Provost Marshal.
By 1862 two additional round windows were added to either side of the main doorway.
St Mary's Academy
The school of the Sisters of Mercy was still active after the Civil War. It was however an exclusive organization for
white children. In May 1867 they gave a recital.
Nothing can be pleasanter to any one who has anything of the human about him, than to see children innocent and
cheerful enjoying the festivities of the breaking up of a school. The speeches and dialogues recited. The songs sung
and the pieces of music excellent played, showed to the minds of the most prejudiced that they Sisters have done
all that any could do to train the minds of those entrusted to their charge in a way that besides making them graceful
and accomplished also makes them intellectual. The joy of the children and the anxious looks of the parents as each
child stepped forward to take its part strongly contrasted and showed to a stranger that St. Augustine society was
bound by the strongest ties, namely domestic happiness.
There was but one thing to mar the pleasant occasion and that was the absence of our former beloved Father
Aubriel, who would have so much delighted in the joyous scene.
Board and tuition was $200. They had additional classes in French, Spanish, and German. Students could also
learn to draw or play the piano.
The Sisters of St. Joseph
In 1868 The Sisters of St. Joseph came from France to teach the newly freed slaves. This was done at the
invitation of Augustin Verot who would become St. Augustine's first bishop. There were eight sisters: Marie
Sidonie Rascle, superior, Marie Julie Roussel, Josephine Deleage, Saint Pierre Bories, Clemence Freycenon,
Marie-Joseph Cortial, Marie Celenie Joubert, and Julie Clotilde Arsac. They originally stayed at the convent of the
Sisters of Mary before being moved to Hospital Street. Later they were moved to the former residence of the
Christian Brothers on South Charlotte Street. In the beginning the sisters only knew French.
The Diocese of St. Augustine was formally created on March 11, 1870. Bishop Verot asked to be transferred
from Savannah to St. Augustine and on October 23, 1870 Bishop Verot took possession of the new Diocese of
St. Augustine. He would hold this position until his death on June 10, 1876. The diocesan boundaries included all
of Florida east of the Apalachicola River. The Florida panhandle was under the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama.
Bishop Virot Organizes the men into Benevolent Societies
The Society of St Benedict the Moor and the St. Augustine Benevolent Society for Catholics
Right Rev Bishop Verot gave out last Sunday that there would be a meeting of the coloured men of St Augustine
with a view of reorganizing the Society of St Benedict which existed among them, before and during the war, and
had afterwards, like so many other things ceased to be as the new order of things inaugurated after the war.
(Notice that this society existed before the War of the Rebellion.) We understand that there was a good number of
men who answered the call, ad there is a prospect of a good many more coming on Sunday next for the final
organization of the Society .....We wish St. Benedict Society and all upright and industrious coloured people full
success and constant God-Speed.
A Society also existed also among the white male population which was suspended during the war. We learned
with pleasure that it had been reorganized and was now in full working order under the name of St. Augustine
Benevolent Society. May it, become the instrument of valuable good done among the working classes of our City
to assist them when living, when dying, and after death.
Bishop Verot finds the old Spanish registers in Cuba. In 1871 on a trip to Havana Cuba Bishop Verot
discovered most of the registers of the Spanish parish of St. Augustine from June 25, 1594 through 1763. In 1906
14 volumes were returned to the parish and in 1938 the 15th volume was found and returned in 1939.
An Appeal of the Catholic Choir of the Cathedral of St. Augustine to the Citizens and Friends of the
Ancient City (1873) The members of the Choir of the time honored Cathedral of St. Augustine deem it their duty
to inform their fellow Christians here and elsewhere, that the Organ of the Church is now altogether worn out, and
inadequate to keep up the decency and splendor of public worship in the venerable edifice where so many
generations of worshippers have met and that it would be a sort of disgrace for this place and even for religion, to
continue much longer to use an instrument which has now fully done its service, is crippled in many of its parts, and
becomes out of order every now and then so as to render it impossible to use it at all. Now knowing the interest
felt here and elsewhere for that venerable Cathedral, we make an appeal to our numerous friends to enable us to
procure at least two thousand dollars the very smallest price for a suitable Organ. We beg our friends in the various
places mentioned below to interest themselves in our behalf, and to collect for that purpose, requiting the amounts
received to the Treasurer of the Choir or to Rt. Rev. Bishop
The Members of the Choir
Right Rev Bishop Verot
Hon John Lott Phillips
Givers so to the fund included: Right Rev. Verot, John Lott Phillips, B. Genovar, Dr. T. A. Pacetti, Bartolo
Oliveros, Mrs. B. F. Oliveros, P. J. Ryall, Mrs. Peter Benet, Miss Isabel Benet, Mrs. J. C. Canova, Miss Ella
Canova, Mrs. N. Rogero, Miss Margaret Weedman, Matchias R. Andreu, Sisters of St. Joseph, Ellen Weedman,
Mary Ann Weedman, Paul Weedman, Dominga Lopez, Mary A. Strischka, Josephene Strischka, J. R. Benet, E.
A. Greatorex, H. Aranu, Wm. Genova, Mrs. Plummer, Mrs. Pomar, Mrs. Mary Lopez, Mrs. A. D. Rogero, Mrs.
R. L. Irwin, Jacob Dusenbery, A. J. Noda, C. Pomar, V. Sanchez, D. S. Masters, Bariolo Pacetti (Savannah), J.
C. Thomas, D. H. Usina, W. J. Sanchez, J. D. Rake, Sam O. Fitz, Miss Anneta Darling, Mrs. Augustina Masters,
Colored People, Mrs. Many Ann Weedman, Mrs. Joseph Pacetti, Mrs. T. A. Pacetti, Mrs. Capt. Drury.
Bishop John Moore
Bishop John Moore was consecrated bishop on May 13, 1877. He remained bishop until his death in 1901.
Bishop more would recruit priests from his native Ireland. By the end of the 1890s 1/2 dozen Irishmen would
studying to become priests for St. Augustine.
William J. Kenny the future bishop of St. Augustine becomes the first American-born priest ordained in the
Diocese of St. Augustine
A fire on April 12, 1887 gutted the Cathedral. It was rebuilt with the help of the architect James Renwick who
added the Spanish Renaissance Bell Tower out of poured concrete with coquina in the Flagler Era (and Flagler's
money). Renwick was the architect for St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Renwick kept the original facade
of la Rocque only changing the choir window and the clock into a niche. Bishop Moore raised money to complete
the rebuilding. Renwick had been at the St. Augustine Hotel during the fire.
The Times Union on April 13th said: "This edifice was one of the most venerable and interesting in America, and
more than any other perhaps had the flavor and charm of antiquity...We judge from the reports that is not ruined
beyond the power of restoration. If its venerable coquina walls stand intact, it can easily be roofed again and it
familiar appearance restored..." The insurance would only cover $3,500 on the building and $600 on the organ.
When the structure was rebuilt the original walls were preserved but the building was increased in length by 12 feet
and a transept added. The campanile (tower) was also built at this time. Like slavery the slave gallery was removed
from the Cathedral.
The altar was designed in Italian Renaissance by Renwick and sculptured in Carrera marble by J. Massey Rhind of
New York City. It was gleaming white with white marble steps that lead to the green and white marble of the
chancel rail. On one side was a great crucifix and on the other side was the bishop's throne. There were statutes on
either side of the golden door of the central tabernacle. On the gospel side was a likeness of Pope Pius V and on
the epistle side was a statue of St. Francis Borgia holding a crowned skull. There was a silver lamp before the altar
that was salvaged from the fire.
Renwick and Rhind also did the altars in the Chapel of St. Anthony and the St. Joseph.
Tile replaced the wood shingles. J. K. Smith of Waterbury, Connecticut who had tiled the Ponce de Leon Hotel
did the roof tiles for the Cathedral. The tower is built with coquina cement like the Ponce de Leon Hotel, the
Alcazar and Casa Monica.
The church yard was enclosed by Renwick with a cast concrete wall (It was removed in 1966 but a section is still
seen on St. George Street.
Five months restored the facade of the Cathedral and one month later the Cathedral was fully restored. The slight
change to the facade was the addition of a sculpture in the place of the old clock. St. Augustine had come to watch
over his Cathedral. The Cathedral was opened for worship on Easter Sunday, 1888.
1894 Clock and Sundial Added
The clock was donated in 1894 by John L. Wilson of Framingham, Massachusetts. The new clock was an eight-
day clock with four faces, striking on the hour and the half hour. The clock was placed on the Renwick bell tower
with the city agreeing to maintain it.
Rev. Clarence E. Woodman of the Paulist Order in New York donated a sundial copied from the one at Oxford
University. The sundial on the tower contains the Latin Words "Pereunt et Imputantur" -- "The hours pass by and
we must account for them."
In 1902 William J. Kenny is consecrated as bishop in the cathedral in St. Augustine. He becomes the first bishop to
become consecrated in St. Augustine
The twelve large stained glass windows depict various scenes in the life of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. The
windows were installed in 1909 and were made by the firm of Mayer & Company of Munich, Germany. The
windows are: 1. Baptism of St. Augustine by St. Ambrose, 2. St. Augustine and St. Alipius, 3. St. Augustine with
St. Monica, 4. Ordination of St. Augustine, 5. Death of St. Monica, 6. St. Augustine healing the sick, 7.
Consecration of St. Augustine, 8. St. Augustine Preaching, 9. St. Augustine reading rules of his order, 10. St.
Augustine by the seashore, 11. Miracle at shrine of St. Stephen in Hippo, and 12. Ecstasy of St. Augustine. The
13th window was located in the Choir loft before the 1965 renovation. It was moved to the right after entry into the
Cathedral. It honors St. Cecilia and has the single word: "Alleluia."
Bishop Michael J. Curley (1879-1947)
He was born in Athlone, Ireland and was appointed Bishop at the age of 34. He would remain Bishop until 1921
when he was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore.
In a test case of a 1913 law prohibiting whites from teaching Negroes in Negro schools three Sisters of St.
Joseph. April 24, 1916 a Warrant was issued for Judge George William Jackson for Sister Mary Thomasine of
the Sisters of St. Joseph, a teacher at St. Benedict School. Her crime was that of a white teacher unlawfully
teaching "Negroes in a negro school." A continuance was requested after she plead not guilty. The bail bond was
set at $25 which she refused to pay. She was taken to the county jail (old jail today). Her lawyers made a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus to Judge George Couper Gibbs. It charged that the Florida statute violated the 14th
Amendment to the United States Constitution (due process clause). Judge Gibbs replied that the U.S. Constitution
had nothing to do with education that was a state matter. But he gave the writ based on his conclusion that the state
statute had nothing to do with private education only public. No further attempts were made against white nuns
teaching African-American students.
In 1922 a sidewalk replaced the flagstones in front of the Cathedral.
1931 Communion Rail
In 1931 the marble communion rail was donated by Mrs. Martin D. Hardin wife of the late General Martin D.
Hardin, General in the United States Army during the War of the Rebellion.
The Cathedral has an interesting history of parish control and a very original problem with the United States
government after the United States bought Florida from the Spanish (since the building was a Royal Crown gift).
The Cathedral was finally incorporated in 1934.
Church life in the 1930s
The Cathedral had several parish organizations in the 1930s including: Children of Mary Sodality, St. Vincent de
Paul Society, Holy Angels Sodality,and Purgatorial Society.
Msgr. Joseph P Hurley appointed sixth bishop of St. Augustine 1940
He was an American born in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the attaché to the Vatican Secretariat of State As Bishop
Hurley condemned Nazism and Fascism. After the war (while still St. Augustine's bishop) he would be appointed
apostolic nuncio to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He came to the assistance of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac and helped
provide relief to millions of starving Yugoslavians. He left the country without Papal permission and was refused
reentry. He was given the rank of Archbishop ad persona and sent back to St. Augustine. Unfortunately when the
civil rights struggle came to St. Augustine he ducked. Literally. He deliberately avoided contact with Martin Luther
King at the Jacksonville Imeson airfield. The church's tepid response was: "Catholic people [ought to] abstain from
any actions which might occasion or increase disorder...in our city."
In 1953 I. T. Verdin Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio installed electric controls for ringing the bells in the
tower and the clock in the tower was also electrified.
Vice-President Lyndon Johnson Visits 1963
Vice-President Johnson visited Mission Nombre de Dios and the Cross and Prince of Peace votive Church are
constructed on the Mission Grounds. Fund raising began for the restoration of the cathedral.
The 1965 Remodel
The 1965 remodel of the cathedral covered the tower and made it harmonious with the new facade of the
Cathedral. The front of the Cathedral and the Tower were painted with Kenatex a textured water proofing paint.
The work began in January 1965 and was finished in March 1966. The Cathedral’s renovation allowed for the
liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council to be addressed. George W. Stickle of Cleveland and the firm of
Eugene F. Kennedy, Jr. were hired. (Stickle also redesigned the Casa Monica hotel into the St. Johns County
Courthouse.) Demetree Builders of Orlando was the general contractor. Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley
commissioned the building of a Eucharistic Chapel, the hanging of murals depicting the Catholic history of Florida
by artist Hugo Ohlms, and the fashioning of a new tabernacle by the Gunning Company of Dublin, Ireland. The
dark wood panelled ceiling in the nave of the Cathedral was removed and the roof was left open-timbered. and
the sanctuary was enlarged.
The new High Altar was composed of the original marble with additions. Richard Moroder carved the statues of
St. Peter and St. Augustine in the side recesses. The redos and tester were created by the architect, George W.
Stickle and designed by Rambusch Studios of New York. The carver of the decorative elements were also carved
in Italy by Richardo Moroder. The general lighting of the Cathedral was engineered by Rambusch of New York.
The mosaic over the altar in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was sketched by Hugo Ohlms and detailed by
Rambusch. The mosaic was assembled in Venice in the studios of Gregorini. It is a small mosaic (built of small
cubes of opaque glass of thousands of colors and shades.
The new windows in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the baptistery were designed and executed in the
Rambusch Studios of New York. The theme of the Blessed Sacrament windows is Sacrifice. The center
commemorates the Second Vatican Council and the encyclical of Pope Paul VI "Mysterium Fidei" where the
mystery of the Holy Eucharist is discussed and explained. William Haley designed the composition and it was
detailed by David Wilson, an English born designer and Leandor Velasco a designer of glass from Bogotá,
Two shrines were placed in the nave one for St. Patrick and one to St. Joseph. St. Patrick for all the Irish priests,
brothers and nuns. St. Joseph for the Sisters of St. Joseph. The wooden statues were carved by Ricardo Morador
in Ortisei, Italy. The decorations are by the Lee Burnam Studios of Hawthorne, Florida.
In the baptistery is the Baptism of Christ by St. John the Evangelist and in the passage is Moses striking the rock in
the desert and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
The small chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary is on the north side of the east transept, to the right of the sanctuary. It
contains a large triptych mural by Hugo Ohlms of Our Lady in blue and gold.
Hugo Ohlms created the murals for the remodeled church. On the wall over the narthex murals depict scenes such
as the first mass on September 8, 1565, the five Spanish explores before Menendez: Ponce de Leon, Panfilo de
Narvaez, Hernando de Soto, Father Luis Cancer and Tristan de Luna. Also the building of the first settlement in St.
Augustine the arrival of the Minorcans from New Smyrna in 1777, the building of the Cathedral and the coming of
the first bishop. Murals on the Epistle side of the sanctuary show the religious and philosophical thinking of the
Renaissance at the time of the first settlement of St. Augustine. Pope Pius V, St. Augustine, Charles Cardinal
Borrome, St. Francis de Sales, Pope Paul III, St. Thomas Aquinas and Archbishop Dermot O'Hurley, martyred
Archbishop of Cashel, Ireland are found here. The murals on the west wall of the sanctuary depict: Timucuan
Indians and missionary, An early missionary, Hernando de Soto, A pastor of St. Augustine, Martyrdom of
Dominican and Jesuit missionaries, and Missionary and Indian craftsmen.
The gold tabernacle of baroque design were done by the firm of Gunning and Son, Limited, Dublin, Ireland. The
15,000 tiles for the floor were made by Cuban refugees in Miami.
The stations of the cross set in carved wood frames are replicas in oil of those in the Pauline Chapel in Rome. They
were done in Rome by Aristide Diez. They were designed after the paintings of Johann Freidrick Overbeck.
The entire back wall of the Cathedral was moved approximately 20 feet to the rear so that the sanctuary could be
enlarged. The choir loft is behind the reredos. The central statue in the reredos, covered with burnished gold leaf is
Christ Triumphant. The smaller statues on either side are of St. Peter and St. Augustine. The three figures were
carved by Ricardo Moredor.
The two small round windows on the facade were filled in. These windows had been part of the original building.
The faces of the clock were also replaced. During the renovation of the cathedral three of the original bells were
removed and had their timbre adjusted by the I.T. Verdin Company of Cincinnati. The fourth bell had a crack that
could not be repaired and was replaced.
Linking the building with the special care given it by its 18th-century Irish pastors, the newly renovated Cathedral
was dedicated on March 9, 1966 by Cardinal William Conway,the primary cardinal of all Ireland and Archbishop
of Armagh (Ireland).
William Cardinal Conway, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland said "When I entered it (the
Cathedral) for the first time, I saw that the Cathedral quite obviously bears the stamp of history upon it, and quite
obviously speaks of the original Spanish character of St. Augustine. It has been done in perfect harmony with the
antecedents of the Cathedral and also with the spirit of contemporary liturgical art."
Blessing of the Fleet
1965 marked the first Palm Sunday blessing of the fleet a tradition that would continue through today.
Bishop Paul F. Tanner
In 1968 Paul Tanner was installed as the 7th bishop of St. Augustine. He was born in Peoria Ill. He had previously
been serving as the General Secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (National Conference of
National Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places
On April 15, 1970 the Cathedral of St. Augustine was designated by the Secretary of the Interior as a National
Historic Landmark. On April 15, 1970 the Cathedral was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as
In response to the request of Bishop Paul Tannier during the U. S. Bicentennial on December 4, 1976, Pope Paul
VI raised the Cathedral to the status of minor basilica. The church was also named a national historical landmark at
the time. It was the 24th American church to be honored as such by the Holy See. The official celebration was held
in September, 1977 with a special mass. Bishop Paul tanner, bishop of the diocese of St. Augustine was the main
celebrant at the liturgy. Msgr. Harold Jordan was rector of the Cathedral. Joining Bishop Tanner was the
Archbishop Edward S. McCarthy, Miami; Bishop Charles McLaughlin, St. Petersburg; Bishop Thomas Grady,
Orlando; and Bishop Rene H. Gracide of the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese. Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick of
Brownsville who had served the Cathedral parish community for 25 years gave the homily.
The crossed keys and triple-crowned tiara of the pope were placed in white marble directly over the front door of
Bishop J. Snyder
In 1979 Bishop John J. Snyder was installed as the 8th bishop of St. Augustine. He had been the auxiliary bishop
of Brooklyn N.Y. under Bishop Francis J. Mugavero.
The Bells and Clock
In 2012 the Cathedral Basilica received a gift of $40,000 from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. The gift
would be used to assist in the renovation of four bells in the cathedral's bell tower and to replace the clock
mechanism. Because of lightning strikes over the years all eight of the bells were silent. In the 1990s a digital
carillon was installed. The tower clock had also stopped working in the fall of 2011. Part of the money was going
toward replacing the time-keeping mechanism. The bells in the facade are also ringing again.
(for pictures of the Bishop's House)
|Cathedral before fire - Picture from Library of Congress - This is a
Civil War picture. How can you tell? The two lower windows by the door
are missing. The windows were added somewhere in the Civil War era.
St. Augustine, Florida. Catholic Church
Creator(s): Cooley, Sam A. (Samuel A.), photographer
Date Created/Published: [between 1861 and 1869]
|Original Cathedral Interior
New York Public Library
|Cathedral Exterior Drawings - Pre 1965
Library of Congress
(for larger version click drawing)
|Cathedral after tower but before 1965 treatment.
Note the Bishop's house next door.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic
American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering
Record, Reproduction Number (Ex:"HABS,ILL,16-CHIG,33-2")
|Florida Photographic Collection
University of Florida Institutional Repository
|Father Pedro Camps
|Mariano de la Rocque, Royal engineer 1789 Plan for the Cathedral
Library of Congress
|James Renwick old Cathedral fence
|St. Augustine Parish Records, St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida
by Francis Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1937.
|Following two pictures are from Francis Benjamin Johnson in 1937
|The Cathedral, St. Augustine
Photographer: William Henry Jackson, 1843-1942,
Related Names: Detroit Publishing Co. , publisher
Date Created/Published: [between 1880 and 1897]
|Cathedral and St. Augustine Hotel.
[St. Augustine views.]
|Churches of Florida
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