Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés – in Avilés

I´m in our sister city, Avilés, right now, and here are a few photos of our founder and first governor, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. 

Menéndez landed in Florida on September 8, 1565. He was born in Avilés, in the house below, which is now the city´s School of Ceramics, training young people in the great Asturian ceramics tradition. 


Menéndez wanted to search for his son, who had been lost on a journey exploring the Caribbean, and Felipe II permitted him to mount an expedition if he would also go to Florida to establish a permanent Spanish base there are make sure that the territory, already claimed by Spain, was not seized by the French or the British. 

He did so and remained in Florida for several years,  returning to Spain when Philip called him back to be the commander of the Armada that was preparing to set forth for the north. Unfortunately, Pedro Menéndez died of typhoid before this could happen. We have to wonder how history would have been different if he had lived; Menéndez was a phenomenally good seaman and would probably not have set forth at that time of year and lost the fleet, but instead would have waited for a better time to attack. In any case, Menéndez died in 1574, and is now buried in the Franciscan church in Avilés in this stone casket up in a niche in the wall  near the altar.

DSCN3051 There is a plaque next to the sarcophagus given by the City of Avilés, which gave a duplicate to St. Augustine. The plaque was lost for many years, but finally turned up again and is now at the base of St. Augustine´s statue of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. But here is his statue in Avilés, in the plaza named for him.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

Asturias, España Húmeda



This picture was taken from the train window as we passed through the foothills of the Picos de Europa on my way to Avilés.  This part of Spain, as you can see, is very green.  It rains a lot here, which it was actually doing at that moment, but you don´t get green without rain.

I´ll be in Avilés, a coastal city west of Gijón,  for the next few days and will be providing a full report.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Looking for La Leche

I’m about to set off for Spain once again, and one of my minor projects will be searching for Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto, the title of a Virgin who was the object of great devotion in St Augustine in its early days and whose shrine is still here, attracting visitors from all over the country who come here to pray for safe childbirth.  The devotion arrived here in the late 16th or early 17th century; it originated in Madrid in the 16th century and was very popular there at that time.

Originally, we seem to have had a figure of La Leche that probably looked like the original in Madrid, but it was stolen and destroyed by the English from Charleston in the 18th century when they destroyed the ermita during one of their attacks.  It was replaced by a painting that is now in Campeche, Mexico, and the statue we have at the Shrine is a modern statue made in Germany and added shortly after the building was restored in the 1930s. The ermita has been destroyed several times, not only by the British, but by natural forces such as hurricanes, and has consequently has been rebuilt several times.

In any case, the question is what the original figure looked like.  In this case, too, the figure has ceased to exist. The devotion had been housed in the Iglesia de San Luis in Madrid, but the church was seized, profaned and destroyed by the Communists during the Spanish Civil War, and the figure is thought to have perished at that time. Again, there was a painting (source unknown to me) that was received by the Parroquia del Carmen, a nearby church in downtown Madrid, and became the new object of devotion until sometime later in the 20th century, when it also was stolen. 

So one of the objects of my trip is to find out what I can about the original figure and the original devotion so that this also can be contributed to the modern devotion and to the history of St Augustine.  Anyone who knows anything about this is more than welcome to contact me!  In the meantime, here’s a photo of our current La Leche, after last night’s May crowning.