Friday, February 23, 2018

St. Patrick's and St. Augustine, Florida history

Overview of St. Augustine, FL
The 2018 Romanza St. Augustine Festival is set for March 9-11 in downtown St. Augustine, featuring 9 of the top Celtic bands in the world, a pre-festival Whiskey Tasting, The St. Augustine Highland games, Celtic artisans and food, live music, two stages, and a variety of entertainment.  The oldest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the World (started here in 1601), begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10, 2018.

A Little History About St. Patrick and St. Augustine: It's been proven in written records that the first event commemorating Saint Patrick in the U.S. was held in St. Augustine, Florida in 1600, and the first St. Patrick's parade/procession took place in 1601.  This pre-dates Boston's claim to the first St. Patrick's Day celebration in 1737, and New York City's first St. Patrick's Day parade in 1762.
Found in Spanish archives on December 20, 2017 by historian Dr. J. Michael Francis, documents reveal that spring festivities included a feast day of San Patricio (St. Patrick) in the year 1600 in St. Augustine, Florida.

"While artillery pieces often were fired to help guide ships safely across St. Augustine's protective sandbar, they were also fired during times of public celebrations and religious festivals,"  Francis wrote in his
blog for PBS  Also, in Francis' PBS blog: “In March of 1601, St. Augustine's residents gathered together and processed through the city's streets in honor of an Irish saint, who appears to have assumed a privileged place in the Spanish garrison town.  Indeed, during these same years, St. Patrick was identified as the official 'protector' of the city's maize fields.”

Rare finds: For Francis, this is one of two extremely rare finds. His previous discovery was the oldest documented marriage in St. Augustine in 1565, which was between a free black woman and a Spanish soldier.  “I've been working in those Spanish archives going on almost 30 years ... and it's rare that you read through and there's this one magical document that changes everything “... like this one St. Patrick’s Day commemoration” Francis said.

According to, Saint Patrick is thought to have been born in the late fourth century, and is known for driving the snakes from Ireland (probably an analogy of putting an end to pagan practices). Saint Patrick wasn't the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, but it is believed he encountered the Druids and abolished their pagan rites. He died in March 17, 460 A.D.

Irish Residents: Francis also found written archive records about two Irish residents in St. Augustine - David Glavid, a soldier and a merchant who moved to St. Augustine in June 1597, and Ricardo Arthur (Richard Arthur) who served as St. Augustine's parish priest from 1597 to 1604, when he disappears from the record.  Francis believes the St. Patrick celebrations in 1600 and 1601 were influenced by the Irish priest, Richard Arthur.

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