Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Greek colony in St.Augustine

It is amazing how such a small town can hold so many layers of history. Also, many nationalities are represented in the city still today. St. Augustine did not become a part of America until it was over 200 years old. After touring the fort we did a walking tour of St Augustine's oldest section of town, and there found the beautiful Greek Orthodox National Shrine. It is quite a unique chapel with exquisite Byzantine style frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
 It is dedicated to the first colony of Greek people who came to America in 1768. A Scottish physician, Dr. A.Turnbull,  received a grant for land from Great Britain with the stipulation that the land be occupied within ten years. Natives of Greece at the time were experiencing many hardships, many of them had withdrawn to the mountains fearing reprisals from the Turks.  They hoped to find freedom in the New World. Dr. Turnbull went to Greece and promised them a new beginning, enlisting them under the English Indentured Servant Act.  Unfortunately life here was hard for them. Many died on the sea voyage over, and in the New World many also died doing slave labor on Dr.Turnball's plantation. Life became better for them once they were able to flee to St.Augustine at the time of the Spanish occupation.  A Catholic priest, Father Pedro Camps, was their spiritual leader when the the immigrants came over. A memorial statue to him and the Greek immigrants, a gift from the Greek island of Minorca,  can be found on the grounds of St. Augustine Cathedral.

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