A Visitors’ Guide to the Historic Churches in St Augustine
St. Augustine is widely known as America’s oldest city, having been first founded in 1565. And since many of the area’s first settlers were early Christian missionaries, it’s perhaps not surprising that some of the area’s most notable buildings are the historic churches in St Augustine. Many have stood the test of time for centuries and are still in use today.
Want to learn more and plan a visit? Here’s your guide to some of the city’s most notable houses of worship.
When speaking of the city’s most historic churches, it’s almost a given that the list must start with Cathedral Basilica St. Augustine. The Basilica can trace its roots back to the very foundations of the city, with its first affiliated congregations happening in the same year the city was established: 1565. The oldest Christian congregation in the U.S. occupied several different buildings on this site since that date, but the current structure — with its Spanish-style facade and spectacular vaulted interior — was completed in 1797. The Basilica is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mission of Nombre de Dios can also trace its 1595 roots to the very foundations of the city, having first been established by Fr. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and a band of settlers in that year. The Lady of La Leche Shrine at the mission is particularly notable, as it stands at the site of what was the first Marian Shrine established in the United States (the original shrine was damaged in a hurricane in 1728, with the current structure dating to 1875). The Madonna and Child statue within the shrine is an exact replica of the Lady of La Leche figure commissioned by King Phillip III at a sister chapel in Spain.
Completed in 1830 (and with sanctuary renovations occurring thanks to area industrialist Henry Flagler in 1889-90), this stunning house of worship has long been a fixture in St. Augustine’s downtown. Built in the Venetian Renaissance style, this exquisite structure’s copper dome can be seen for miles, and its handcrafted terracotta relief details and rich mahogany wood accents add stunning detail. The church has had many uses over the years, including serving as a temporary barracks during the Civil War. Today, regular services are back on the schedule.
Florida’s oldest Episcopal church was dedicated in 1834. It is home to the central congregation of the Trinity Parish, which convened in 1821. The building itself has been renovated and expanded several times over the last two centuries, including the pre-Civil War installation of some truly stunning stained-glass windows that still remain today (such as the triptych above the central altar). The rest of the building is no less a work of stunning architectural art, with graceful lines and sweeping buttresses adorning the exterior.
Located just steps from St. Augustine’s city gates, the stunning frescoes and artisanal exhibits at St. Photios commemorate the memories of the first colony of Greek Christians who came to America in 1768. Visitors can get a glimpse into the lives of these early settlers via these brilliant pieces. The shrine is an institution within the American Greek Orthodox order, honoring and documenting the coalescence of the church in early America. Additional exhibits include historical documents, artifacts, photographs, and a chapel.
The First Congregation temple was the first synagogue established in St. Augustine, contributing to the diversity of faith in the city’s history. The first Jewish families to attend services in Florida arrived from Europe and Russia in the late 1800s and set about building the foundations of their worship here. The synagogue itself was dedicated in 1923, with the signature stained-glass windows following in 1958. The temple has sustained some storm damage over the years, but its impressive edifice and beautiful windows have recently undergone some renovations that restored them to their timeless glory.
Plan Your Tour
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