Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 02, 2012

The Protestant Church No One Remembered

In St. Augustine, Florida there is a beautiful Catholic mission that marks the spot where Christianity was said to have originated in the New World. While it is true that this is the spot where Catholic Christianity was started, and that this event marked the instance of the first Catholic mass in the country, there almost definitely would have been some kind of church or chapel at the French Protestant settlement of La Caroline near present-day Jacksonville, Florida.

Were it not for the Spanish conquistadors subjecting the Huguenots to martyrdom, Protestant Christianity would have been the first and oldest established Christian faith in America --- an interesting tidbit indeed. Nothing is said of any temporary churches at La Caroline. Contemporary drawings do not show it. Yet the Huguenots, being very religious folk, would have never settled a colony without setting up some house of worship, or several.

So what might it have looked like? It was probably made of thatch and wood, much as the Spaniards built their own churches in the mid-16th century. It is possible there was a cross on the roof but equally possible that there was not . . . the French Calvinists had a strict policy against “idolatry,” and they believed the representation of crosses or crucifixes fell into that category. Inside it was likely very sparse. Churchgoers probably had rough wooden benches. I wonder if carpets brought from France or palm fronds might have decorated the floor. There would have probably been a simple window or two.

This is all conjecture; it does, however, seem very likely that the Huguenot “temple” --- wherever it was, and however it fell --- at La Caroline would have been much like this. It was probably one of the first casualties when Spaniards raided the fort on the morning of September 20, 1565. Historical accounts record that the soldiers burned Protestant texts and anything pertaining to the faith, and it is quite logical that these things would have been kept in a church.

It is a vague possibility that the Spaniards, upon capturing the French settlement and molding it into Fort San Mateo, might have “re-consecrated” any remaining churches and used them for Catholic services. Yet, given the vitriol that Catholics and Protestants felt toward one other in this era, it is questionable to think that they would have been comfortable holding services even in a “purified” structure. Perhaps it was committed to the flames of destruction. We will probably never know for sure . . .

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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