On Sept. 8, 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avíles landed and proclaimed this site for Spain and the Church. It was here that Menéndez knelt to kiss a wooden cross presented to him by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, chaplain of his expedition. Led by Father Lopez, the Spanish along with the local Native Indians would celebrate the First Thankgsgiving Mass and begin the work of building America’s first Mission Church. Each year, the Shrine & Mission celebrate the founding day with an authentic reenactment and fMass. On this spot, known by many as the “sacred acre”, the Spanish settlers would begin the devotion to Our Lady of la Leche in the late 1500’s, thus beginning the first Marian Shrine in what is today the United States.
Most visitors to Mission Nombre de Dios begin their tour or pilgrimage at the Shrine Church which was originally built in 1965 and known then, as the Prince of Peace Votive Church. It is located at the San Marco Avenue entrance to the grounds in St. Augustine.
The Great Cross, made of stainless steel and rising 208 feet above the Matanzas marshes in St. Augustine, stands as a sentinel over the Mission grounds and a Beacon of Faith for all who pass by. It was erected at the direction of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley and was dedicated during the diocesan Eucharistic Congress of October 1966. Like the Prince of Peace Church, the Great Cross celebrates the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Mission Nombre de Dios.
For a more extensive history of The Shrine & Mission, visit www.missionandshrine.org. On our website, you can find information about the schedule of services at the Shrine, monthly activities, educational tours for school groups, pilgrimage opportunities, and Mission Museum and Gift Shop hours. For those interested in purchasing church supplies or vestments, customer service contact information is listed below.