Our Lady of Leche

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Mon 13 Feb 2012 23:07
Mission Nombre de Dios and Our Lady of La Leche
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                      What would you like in your sandwich Trooper ???                    Eyes half shut thinking – “ermmmm.”                     “That one please”



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We had a late start, Steve, Maggie and Trooper came over and we had lunch on Beez before we went for our daily tourist thing. A stroll along the front, to the cross we had seen from Beez on our way in.

Mission Nombre de Dios Museum: The museum was built with funds from a generous donation by the late Dr. Robert Ellert and his late wife Dr. JoAnn Crisp-Ellert. The museum, designed by Jacksonville architect Erik Kasper, is divided into four sections: a gallery for exhibits, a central reception area, a meeting room and a grand hallway. The exhibits cover the Spanish period from 1565 when Pedro Menéndez de Aviles arrived in Florida to 1763 when the British took over. At the time, the territory was known as La Florida and extended from Miami to the Chesapeake Bay and west to Ohio, and was occupied by many different tribes. The museum has some artifacts from the indigenous people, especially the Timucuans, whom the Spanish came to evangelise. During the Spanish period, members of the Franciscans and Jesuits established about two hundred missions, many of which were destroyed when the British took over. Only two remain - Nombre de Dios and Mission San Luis in Tallahassee. As part of the exhibit of the Menéndez period are marble statues of St. Pius V, who was pope at the time, and St. Francis Borgia, head of the Jesuit Order who sent priests to Florida. Among the oldest artifacts in the museum is the casket and headboard of Pedro Menéndez de Aviles. When he died in 1574, his body was returned to Spain in the casket, which was then donated to St. Augustine, along with the headboard bearing the family’s coat of arms. Bear thought it was odd to see the casket ‘decorated’ with inlaid skulls and crossbones.


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We took a bimble through the grounds, home to hundreds of squirrels that Trooper wanted to round up. The boys found a place to rest before we wandered over to the Father Lopez statue which stands in front of The Great Cross which is two hundred and eight feet tall.


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Father Fransisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajeles was a diocesan priest from Jerez de Frontera in Spain before becoming the expedition chaplain. We stopped at the Rustic Altar where Father Lopez celebrated the first Mass in the new colony on the 8th of September 1565.


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Some of the statues, memorials and fountains along the 7 Sorrows Path. This site has been called “America’s most sacred acre.” The founders of the Sisters of St Joseph of St Augustine are buried here. (I chatted to one of the sisters - in mufti - in the museum because I recognised her Crucifix as the same as my junior school teachers, of the same Order). Six federal soldiers were interred here during and after the Civil War. Few were buried here until the closing of the 19th century. Most graves are those of parishioners between 1880 and 1900.


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Our Lady of La Leche (pronounced by most as Letch-ay but by Bear as Leck-ee) is the first shrine dedicated to Our Lady in the U.S.. The history of the devotion to the Mother of Jesus as Our Lady of La Leche may have roots in a 4th Century grotto in Bethlehem, to this day the Franciscan community maintains a shrine there called the Milk Grotto. Its centrepiece is the Blessed Virgin nursing the infant Jesus. Many believe that the crusaders brought the devotion to Mary as a nursing mother to Spain in the Middle Ages. During the reign of Phillip III, word spread in Spain of a nobleman’s wife and baby, expected to die during the birth of the child, who were both spared as a result of the intercession of Nuestra Senora de la Leche y buen parto (Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery), the story soon found a place in the hearts of many throughout Spain. This is the fourth chapel to be built on this site, the first was built in 1615 and two more were victims of war, pirates and a storm, reconstruction began this time in 1918. The statue of Our Lady of Leche was brought here in 1603.


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We left this haven of peace and headed for the Martini Bar, an ambition of Steve's was to have it a la James Bond


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Did he enjoy it – NO. Turns out that the American taste is not for Vermouth so the bar only puts a tiny bit in, so Steve’s was virtually neat vodka. Bear was brave, Maggie faired quite well with her chocolate based cocktail and I managed the Strawberry Kiss. We promised to buy a small bottle of Martini, some olives and do it the correct way.



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Conversation was good and the surroundings were pleasing