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Peaceful and serene, the Mission of Nombre de Dios is a place where everyone can feel at home. Shrines and statues are surrounded by lush greenery and trees and welcome visitors from every corner of the earth. It is here that the Great Cross was erected in 1965 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first parish Catholic Mass. The chapel, which is dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche, is a shrine which houses an exquisitely detailed carved statue of Mary nursing the baby Jesus.
Established in 1615, many people have traveled here to pray for mothers and mothers-to-be. On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on this site and proclaimed it for Spain. Prior to raising the King’s flag, Menendez revered a cross dedicating the site to God. Mission Nombre de Dios was established to bring the Christian faith to the Native people of this land. This is also the site of the first shrine to Mary, Mother of Jesus, in what is now the U.S. The site is marked by a 208-foot stainless steel cross, an 11-foot bronze statue of the chaplain of Menendez’ fleet, Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza, and other significant memorials.
The shrine, located on the grounds, is the first devotion to Mary in what is now the U.S. and is dedicated to motherhood. The devotion found its way here from Spain in the early 1600s and was a significant part of the spiritual life among the Native People as well as the Spanish settlers. The statue of Mary nursing the infant Jesus symbolizes this devotion and is credited with bringing both hope and solace to visitors. There is an historic, small shrine chapel and a new, larger shrine church on the grounds for this devotion.
The museum focuses on the founding of St. Augustine, the beginning of the teaching of Christianity on this land, and the missionary effort from 1565 to the present. In addition to many relevant exhibits and artifacts, the museum houses the original casket in which Menendez was buried in 1574(his mortal remains were transferred to a crypt in Spain in 1924).