A view of the Matanzas Inlet with Spanish canon poised to take out any entering vessels. Photo by Jeff Mallinson.

A view of the Matanzas Inlet with Spanish canon poised to take out any entering vessels. Photo by Jeff Mallinson.

[Note: This paper was originally presented at the American Academy of Religion National Conference in Atlanta, GA , 2003]

This paper treats events of sixteenth-century holy warfare in Florida. This story climaxed in a massacre at the Matanzas Inlet, where Spanish Adelantado Pedro Menéndez slit the throats of French colonists and mariners he condemned as “Luteranos.” This story found its denouement in the acts of an aging French adventurer Dominique de Gourgue who, in retaliation, massacred Spaniards in Florida, recreating the manner in which the Protestants had died.

The cruelty carried out in 1560s Florida, perpetuated by both Catholics and Protestants, was not, as is often supposed by recent scholars, carried out for economic reasons with a religious veneer.  Rather, this chain of atrocities involved deeply religious motivations, and led to performance violence, laced with ritual.  

The participants in this violence understood their actions to be part of a cosmic war—they lived prior to the Enlightenment intellectual division between the sacred and the geographical or the sacred and the economic.  They lived in a world where angelic and demonic beings were territorial and where Providence enabled God’s people to overcome insurmountable odds and defeat their earthly foes.  They lived in a world where divine favor became apparent when God granted his people a plot of earth.

Like finding out which sixth-grader threw the first punch in a schoolyard brawl, it is difficult to determine where the cycle of violence began. Arguably, the first punch was thrown in 1555 by the French Protestant Jacques Sores, who attacked the port of Havana in search of silver.  Sores and his Protestant corsairs might rightly be called religious terrorists sinceSores, finding the Spanish silver fleet had left, thought it was still worth sticking around to commit atrocities, kill Spanish subjects, and desecrate a Catholic church.[1]  

French authorities allowed such corsair activity for economic reasons. However, anti-Spanish sentiments among French mariners coincided with an increasing turn toward Protestantism among sailors in Norman port communities.  This intensified hostilities on both sides, since an un-resolvable conflict in the Caribbean began to take on the implications of a cosmic war between orthodoxy and heresy or between biblical Christianity and Roman idolatry.

 In 1562 the first French colonial expedition to Florida embarked. Less than a month later, the French Wars of Religion began.[2]  Significantly, the sponsor of the colonial expedition was admiral Coligny, who had now lost favor at court.  Coligny was a Huguenot, but one who desired to make the crown understand that there was a place within the realm for law-abiding Protestants.[3]  

 Many have asked whether Coligny’s motivation for settling Florida (as well as a previous attempt in Brazil) involved founding a haven for Huguenots.  John McGrath’s recent study rejects this idea, citing a lack of evidence.[4]  He suggests that Coligny, a man committed to moderation and religious liberty, intended to demonstrate that Protestants could be loyal French subjects and thus recruited them to take part in a nationalistic venture.  While McGrath may be right about Coligny’s motives, the intensions of the Protestant colonists were quite different.  They had a better read on the French political climate and realized the place of French Protestants within their mother country was tenuous at best, something Coligny did not fully understand until moments before his murder on St. Bartholomew’s Day.  With this in mind, they saw the opportunity to settle Floridaas a chance to establish a new Promised Land.  This is supported by the following:

1.   Calvin encouraged Coligny’s previous attempt at colonizing Brazil and sent Genevan ministers on the voyage.[5]This attempt failed, it seemed, because the leadership did not support the Calvinist clergy.  In contrast, the Florida mission self-consciously recruited Calvinists and was led by Calvinists.

2.   Primary source accounts use biblical names and imagery, such as dubbing a river “the Jordan,” and comparing the alligators of the region to crocodiles of the Nile. Likewise, Ribault, on his first visit to Florida, compares the land to Eden and says, that there God “brings forth all things according to its first nature, wherewith the eternal God endowed it.”[6]

3.   Older scholarship that considered the Florida colony a “Huguenot refuge” rightly recognized that the participants’ penchant for downplaying the endeavor’s sectarian nature was intentional.[7]  

4.   Mariners of the port city of Dieppe likely assumed the intentions of Coligny to be tied to religious convictions, since Coligny had been instrumental in converting many Norman mariners to Calvinism.[8]  

5.   Because the expedition to Florida defied the Treaty of Tordesillas, some may have viewed the adventure as a crusade against Roman Catholic hegemony.


Older scholars were right to suggest that Coligny treated the first voyage as a nationalistic endeavor, but one that could lay the foundations for a Huguenot refuge, should the Guises take power in France.[9]  Thus, the older scholar Parkman rightly observes:

True, the enterprise was a national enterprise, undertaken at the national charge, with the royal commission, and under the royal standard.  True, it had been assailed in time of peace by a power professing the closest amity. Yet Huguenot influence had prompted and Huguenot hands executed it.[10]

What do we make of the obvious financial advantage of the French Florida project?[11]  To be sure, economic motivations are indisputable.  But only a post-Enlightenment mind would assume that an economic motivation ruled out a spiritual one.  McGrath admits that the declared intent of the first expedition to Florida involved a “combination of purposes” and included the exploitation of natural resources as well as the spread of Christianity.[12]  I would like to go a step further and say that, to the participants of the project economic conquest and religious mission were aspects of a singlepurpose—to ensure that God’s faithful, rather than God’s enemies, would thrive.  (One need only look, incidentally, to the Weber-Tawny thesis to see how Calvinism could have economic implications.)

Jean Ribault contended that his original voyage to Florida had four aspects, in his own words these were:

1. To “have knowledge of strange countries.”

2. To “receive by continual traffic rich and inestimable commodities.”

3. To increase France’s “commonwealths, countries and dominions.”

4. To follow the stirrings of “God above” to bring the knowledge of Christianity to “brutish people … ignorant of Jesus Christ” and “bring them to our faith, at the time by himself alone foreseen and foreordained [note the use Calvinist language].”[13]

The first French voyage included almost exclusively what the Spaniards called “Luteranos” and the French called “Huguenots.”  In addition, an evangelical chaplain took part in the expedition.  This was of primary importance to all parties concerned and informed issues of identity. Later, when a Spanish ship came along Ribault’s flagship called the Trinity, they shouted: “How many of you are Lutheranos,” to which Ribault’s crew responded “All of us.”  

That their words were fairly accurate is supported by a published edict back in France ‘that no Catholic at the peril of his life should go in his fleet, nor any Catholic books be taken.’”[14]

The first acts of Ribault, upon meeting the Timucuan people, were clearly sacred.  He began by evangelizing, using sign language.  He says, “I made a sign lifting my arm and pointing with one finger to make them look heavenward…”[15]  Then he says, “we fell to our knees and gave thanks to God, beseeching him to continue his goodness toward us, and bring the knowledge of our Savior Christ to this poor people.”[16]  He prayed:

… my Lord it may be well said that the living God has reserved this great land for your poor servants and subjects as well to the end they might be made great over this poor people and rude nation.[17]

Ribault left a contingent to establish a garrison.  Unfortunately, they suffered from bad leadership and the inability to sustain themselves without burdening their Timucuan neighbors. They awaited the return of Ribault, his reinforcements, and his supplies.  They did not know that Ribault was delayed because of the religious warfare back in France.  Impatient, the French colonists built their own boat, and made sails from their shirts and bedding.  Amazingly, they made it back to Europe, but not before resorting to cannibalism.  Mariner Thomas Stucley discovered them floating near England.  Coincidentally, Stucley had been working with Ribault to return to Florida and assist these very men.  Meanwhile—as a Catholic—he had been alerting the Spanish ambassador to the French project.

 French civil war ended in 1563, allowing Ribault’s lieutenant Rene Laudonnière to attempt a return voyage to Florida, with new colonists.  For this second endeavor, Calvinists were recruited actively.[18]  Since Ribault was imprisoned in England, he would not join Laudonnière until 1565.[19]

 This second voyage resulted in an established Fort Caroline, despite mutinies and attempts on Laudonnière’s life.  These colonists were once again unable to sustain themselves independently; Laudonnière and those loyal to him began to build a ship to return to Europe. 

Before they could finish a vessel, English captain and slave trader John Hawkins arrived and showed surprising humanity to the French despite his occupation.[20]  In exchange for weapons and ammunition, he gave the French a ship, food, shoes and wine.

 Meanwhile, Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, Spanish Adelantado, was commissioned to race to Florida and stop the French intrusion before Jean Ribault could reinforce Fort Caroline.  In his diary, Menéndez said his divine mission was “to propagate [God’s] religion and destroy the heretics.”[21]  Likewise, he wrote, “Such grief seizes me when I behold this multitude of wretched Indians, that I should choose the conquest and settling of Florida above all commands, offices, and dignities…”[22]

 As Menéndez embarked upon his voyage, he said, he “had a mission to fulfill for Jesus Christ and his mother.”[23]  This mission was sanctified, in his mind by a “miracle from heaven”—in the form of a meteor that went westward “towards Florida, and its brightness (he said) lasted long enough to repeat two credos.”[24]  

 In August 1565, as Laudonnière and his people were about to return to Europe, Ribault arrived with seven ships and roughly 600 colonists.[25]  

 The same day, Menéndez arrived at what he dubbed the River of Dolphins, with 19 ships, and more than one thousand colonists, who promptly founded St. Augustine.  The chaplain Mendoza recounts:

 Carrying a cross, I proceeded at the head, chanting the hymn Te Deum Laudamus.  The general marched straight up to the cross, together with all those who accompanied him, and kneeling they all kissed the cross… Thereupon the general took possession of the country in the name of his Majesty.[26]

 All acts of colonization, violent or not, were sanctified with liturgy.

 Coligny had ordered Ribault not to allow Menéndez to settle in Florida, and thus Ribault sailed toward St. Augustine, despite a threatening storm.  Ribault almost caught Menéndez in a small boat. However, Ribault could not attack, since a sand bar impeded him, and a brutal storm scattered the French ships to the south.

 The tide had literally turned.  Laudonnière says that the Timucuan people believed “it was the worst weather that was ever seen on that coast.”[27]

 Menéndez marched overland toward Fort Caroline.  He and his men arrived undetected at the French fort, kneeled for prayer[28]and then descended upon the sleepy French. Menéndez recalls, “Some arose in their shirts, and others, quite naked, begged for quarter; but in spite of that, more than one hundred and forty were killed.”[29]  A few, including Laudonnièreescaped and returned to France.  Some 70 women and children were taken prisoner.  

 Of those who escaped, six decided to return.  They thought the Spanish fury might have subsided. One old Huguenot quoted the Bible and said that God would not abandon those who placed their faith in Him.  He was misguided.  Those who remained hidden in the woods watched as their comrades were cut down.  The artist Le Moyne watched as a friend tried to surrender: “He kneeled, and begged for his life.  He was answered by a death-blow; the horrified Le Moyne, from his hiding-place in the thicket, saw his friend’s limbs hacked apart, stuck on pikes, and borne off in triumph.”[30]

 Some Huguenots endured a special humiliation: Menéndez hung several from trees, placing over them the inscription: “I do this not as to Frenchmen, but as to Lutherans.”

 Among the supplies in the fort were, according to one source “trunks filled with bookes well bound and gilt, from which they did not say mass, but preached their Lutheran doctrines every evening , all of which books he directed to be burned.”[31]  The chaplain Mendoza was less concerned with the booty than the spiritual victory and said, “the greatest profit of this victory is the triumph which our Lord has granted us, whereby his holy Gospel will be introduced into this country, a thing so needful for saving so many souls from perdition.”[32]

 Eight days later, the Spanish discovered why Ribault’s men were unable to defend their fort—at least one ship was stranded on a sand bar.  A French sailor swam to Menéndez, to negotiate.[33]  Menéndez promised no mercy, but was not explicit that they would all die.  In any case, the stranded mariners had little choice but to place their lives in his hands.  The account of their execution is found in the journal of the Spanish chaplain Mendoza:

 Finding they were all Lutherans, [Menéndez] ordered them all to be put to death, but as I was a priest and had the bowels of mercy, I begged him to grant me the favor of sparing those whom we might find to be Christians.  He granted it, and I made investigations, and found ten or twelve of the men Roman Catholics … All the others we executed because they were Lutherans and enemies of our Holy Catholic Faith.[34]

 The second Matanzas massacre took place on October 12.  On that occasion Ribault himself was part of a party that had been incapacitated by the storm.  On this occasion, Ribault and several other nobles were able to offer a substantial ransom to Menéndez.  Perhaps nowhere is the earnest religious conviction of the adelantadoclearer than at this point of temptation.  Menéndez had embarked on his mission in the midst of financial crisis. The sum offered by the French nobles could have settled his debts.  The fact that Menéndez quickly refused the ransom shows that, at least in this case, religious convictions outweighed any lust for wealth.[35]

 Menéndez had the French brought to shore ten at a time, with their hands bound.  These men soon realized their fate.  Ribault led them in the singing of a psalm “(Domine memente mei.)”  After this, Ribault said that: “…they were made of earth and to earth they must return, and that twenty years, more or less, were of no consequence.”[36]  The Spanish then executed their captives.  

 Though some Spanish colonists at St. Augustine accused Menéndez of being too cruel, Pope Pius V wrote to congratulate him:

 We greatly rejoice that our much beloved dear son in Christ, Phillip II, the most Catholic king, had appointed and honored you by the government of Florida, … for we … believed without doubt that you would not only fulfill faithfully, and with care and diligence the orders and instructions which had been delivered to you by so Catholic a king, but we also fully trusted that you would, with discretion, do all that was requisite...[37]

 In 1568, the retired adventurer Dominique de Gourgue added a gruesomely symbolic final chapter to this story when he recruited men to avenge French honor in Florida.  De Gourgue’s religious convictions are unclear.  I suspect he had at least Protestant sympathies.  The lack of explicit mention of his faith is likely because he needed protection in France as a national hero, rather than a sectarian terrorist.[38]  Some Spanish sources describe him as a “heretic.”[39]

 De Gourgue attacked the first oftwo adjacent forts as the Spaniards finished a meal,and easily overtook his enemy.  There he and his men were outraged to find a canon with French insignia.  As they turned this canon on the remaining Spanish fort, Timucuan warriors—allied with the French—grew impatient and began to cross the river and attack the second fort.  Because of the position of the sun, the Spaniards thought the Timucuan warriors were fully armed Frenchmen and fled into the forest.  Unfortunately for them, that was where de Gourgue’s men were waiting.  The Spanish cast down their weapons and pleaded for mercy. They received none.  De Gourgue restrained his men from killing all the surrendering soldiers on the spot.  He did not wish to take them prisoner, however. De Gourguestood captured Spaniards before him, recounted their cruelties, and hung them on the same trees where they had hung the Huguenots. Above their limp bodies, de Gourgue engraved the following on a pine plank: “I do this not to Spaniards, nor to sailors, but to traitors, robbers, and murderers.”[40](Rene Girard would describe this this as a clear case of mimetic violence.)  

 He concluded his adventure by gathering his men and stating that, their victory was due to providence:

 My friends, [he said] let us return thanks to Godfor the good success which he has given to our enterprise … [The Spaniards] were four to one, in strong places, well entrenched, and well provided with artillery, munitions, arms and provisions.  We had nothing but a just cause, and yet we conquered them in an instant.  Therefore, it is not to our forces, but to God only that we owe the victory.”[41]  

 More than one observer has asked the question: How could these individuals act so cruelly?  Juergensmeyer’s commentary on contemporary examples of violence may shed some light:

 What makes religious violence (he says)  particularly savage and relentless is that its perpetrators have placed such religious images of divine struggle—cosmic war—in the service of worldly political battles.  For this reason, acts of religious terror serve not only as tactics in a political strategy but also as evocations of a much larger spiritual confrontation.[42]

 Institutionalized acts of violence become quasi-liturgical expressions of religion that use bloodshed to “purify the community” and “humiliate the enemy”.[43]  

Religion and Politics pre-Enlightenment

 It is hard for many to understand the worldviews of those who lived in the sixteenth century, since, as Horsley says “the only legitimate space allowed to Christianity in post-Enlightenment society was individual belief. … Alienated from the relations of production and no longer directly affecting the quality of political[44]-economic-social life, religion became more of a privatized refuge and consolation.”[45]  This was notwhat the French and Spanish Christians of 1565 thought—their faith permeated all aspects of life.[46]  

 This thinking informed the way Europeans conceived evangelism of the Americas.  Enrique Dussel says, “Evangelization involved not only personal or individual conversion, but also social and community transformation.”[47]  Thus, when the papacy gave to European kings the jus patronatusof spreading Christianity, it gave them a mission that built in the “fundamental ambiguity between colonizing and evangelizing.”[48]  But this ambiguity should not be stated in a way that indicates one or the other purpose was more important than the other.  Elsewhere, Dussel says:

 I would prefer to speak of the integralmeaning of the conquest as seen in the modus operandiof a Christian nation still living in the Middle Ages.  The conquest signified the expansion of the Hispanic type of Christianity, including all the ambiguity that such a formula indicates.  By understanding the structure of Hispanic national Christianity one can immediately comprehend the diverse elements of which that Christianity was constituted, and the spurious contradictions will disappear. … the reason [for Spanish colonization] was not merely economic, and to criticize them as capitalists is an unfounded anachronism.”[49]

Within this framework,[50]the intrusion of heretical Europeans into Hispanic dominions was troubling in the extreme. As Guillermo Cook states:

Protestant ideas, disseminated very early by marooned English and Dutch pirates and later by Northern European enclaves in South America and the Caribbean, threatened Spanish imperial hegemony and were ruthlessly suppressed.[51]

The Biblical Conception of Territory and Territorial Spirits

 French and Spanish talk about Florida included language that spoke of a promised land and of territorial spirits.  For the French, just as Abraham saw the land promised to him but did not occupy it, their claim was based on the idea that the discoverer of the land, Verrazzano, sent by Francis I, had staked a claim for France.[52]  The Spanish may have taken hold of the Caribbean, but they did so as Philistines. 

 At the same time, the Spanish had divine promise through the Treaty of Tordesillas that the land was rightfully theirs.  Looking back to the actions of men like Joshua and David, it was both the privilege and sacred duty for Menéndez and his men to subdue the unwashed heathen—through violence when necessary. 

The concept of “cosmic war”

 The concept of cosmic war usually involves a society’s central symbols.[53]Contemporary examples include the World Trade Center and the Internet.  In the context of sixteenth century Florida, Spanish trade routes resembled the World Trade Center in that they were linked with national prosperity and approximated the Internet in that they were the pathways of commerce.

Pedro Menendez de Avilez, as painted by a living descendent and housed in the  Mission Nombre de Dios Museum, St. Augustine, FL

Pedro Menendez de Avilez, as painted by a living descendent and housed in the Mission Nombre de Dios Museum, St. Augustine, FL

 In cosmic war, participants engage in mutual demonization.  Menéndez’ calls the French “miserable devils.”[54]  This demonization, of course, explains why Menéndez would not spare the lives of the stranded sailors.  The black-and white worldview of Menéndez was apparent when he explained:

 All Catholics I will befriend; but as you are of the New Sect, I hold you as enemies, and wage deadly war against you; and this I will do with all cruelty in this country, where I command as Viceroy and Captain Generalfor my King.  I am here to plant the Holy Gospel, that the Indians may be enlightened and come to the knowledge of the holy Catholic faithof our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Roman Church teaches it.[55]

 In cosmic war, once one accepts the demonization of the enemy, there can be no rehabilitation, just as in medieval theology and in Calvinism, there was no hope that fallen spirits could be restored.  

 This helps explain Menéndez’ actions, as does his earlier instruction from Pope Pius V, who, when Menéndez fought against protestants in the Netherlands, commanded that no protestant prisoners should be taken, and that all should be slain on the spot.[56]

 The early modern commentator Oré reflects the conception of Spanish colonization as holy war when he describes those who died in the process as martyrs, because “they died as Catholics at the hands of the infidel.”[57]

 The language of “principalities and powers” is justified since primary sources routinely describe the Americas in terms of angels and demons.  One Spanish writer said of the region: “It is a very rich and extensive land … in effect it is a land of angels.”[58]  Conversely, another writer mentions that the Timucuan people have magicians who “who call upon devils.”[59]

 On the French side, the concept of a cosmic war emerges when Jean Ribault ascribes all his difficulties to the direct opposition of Satan. He writes,

… Satan did often what he could to sow many obstacles, troubles, and tests, according to his accustomed subtleties, so it is come to pass that God by his only goodness has given us grace ...[60]

 Juergensmeyer, in recognizing this phenomenon of demonization today, links it to Old Testament violence:

 In the battles described in the Hebrew Bible and in such epics as the Ramayana, the enemies were often foreigners from the shady edges of known civilization—places such as Canaan, Philistine, and Lanka.  These foes often embodied the conceptual murkiness of their origins; that is, they represented what was chaotic and uncertain about the world, including those things that defied categorization altogether.[61]

The demonization employed by the French and Spanish led them to consider their actions as part of a larger struggle that conformed to three characteristics of cosmic warfare as outlined by Juergensmeyer: 

1. Violence is seen as part of a cosmic battle when the struggle is perceived as a defense of basic identity and dignity.

Clearly, the infringement of the French upon Spanish territory, grantd by the Pope himself, was an outrageous offense.  Should they have failed to keep it from the hands of heretics, it would have blown apart the most important aspect of Spanish dignity—its defense of the Catholic faith. 

Dignity also meant keeping one’s word, no matter how unpleasant. Thus, when Menéndez captured 13 indigenous warriors, he told one that if he would go and return with a Spaniard held in a nearby village, he would release all twelve of his hostages.  When the man did not return, Menéndez had his dozen captives catechized into Catholicism, baptized, and then killed.[62]

For de Gourgue, the use of violence to preserve identity and dignity is especially pronounced.  In concrete terms, his violence accomplished little—it was not an overwhelming financial venture, France still did not have a foothold in Florida, but pride was maintained and a sense of divine reckoning was palpable.

2. Violence is seen as part of a cosmic battle when losing the struggle would be unthinkable.

It was unthinkable for the Spanish mind to lose what God had given them to heretics.  If they allowed heretical influence upon the souls of those entrusted to them in the Caribbean, God would look upon them with a displeasure verging on damnation. As one modern observer comments, “Philip considered the presence of heretics in his possessions, which included Florida to be an unpardonable offence.”[63]

Likewise, though in hindsight their project was doomed, Huguenots could not conceive of an outcome other than one favorable to the elect.  

3. Violence is seen as part of a cosmic battle when the struggle cannot be won in real time or in real terms.

A sense of helplessness in the midst of chaos characterizes religious violence.  When individuals feel helpless, they seek violence to empower themselves and their religious position.  At the point when Menéndez executed the French mariners at Matanzas, he had been through several chaotic events in the previous year.  His financial woes nearly ruined him, he was facing litigation, his son was missing at sea, and his ability to defend himself against the French was then not something he could take for granted.[64]  Furthermore, while the Spanish visibly possessed wealth and dominions, signs were already apparent that their hold on these was slipping.  In the words of one observer, Spain’s condition was “that of an athletic man penetrated with disease, which had not yet unstrung the sinews formed in his days of vigor.”[65] Above all, for devout Catholics, the threat of Reformation represented the disintegration of all things dear to Christian Europe—and resulted in a real societal crisis. Had the French heretics not been perceived as a real threat to the spiritual rectitude of the globe, Menéndez may have been more lenient.  As it was, the idea of a unified and Catholic globe was becoming illusory. 


There are three primary takeaways from the Florida Holy War of the 1560s.

First, while recent scholarship rightly clarifies centuries of partisan misconceptions, and arrives at balanced accounts of events,some scholars underemphasize the religious motivations of both Catholic and Protestant parties.  Historiographical exaggeration indeed took place in early modern accounts, especially from Protestant pens after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres and the European Wars of Religion.  However, this only indicates that the Florida violence provided material for confessional propaganda, not that the original events lacked religious motivations.  

Second, the motivations of Admiral Coligny, and his efforts to work with the Catholic monarchy, must be separated from the intentions of Huguenots from Normandy. The important distinction between the two is that,while Admiral Coligny possessed a sense of political enfranchisement the average Calvinist in France clearly had reasons for relocating to the New World and attempting to demarcate evangelical geography.  They were being marginalized in French society—and told they could not worship within city limits.  Moreover, because of the Treaty of Tordesillas, they were in danger of being excluded from the right to exist anywhere on the emerging global map.  In light of this, the experiment of French Florida can indeed be seen as a quest for a “promised land.”  

Third and finally, it is unwise to sharply divide politico-economic motivations from religious motivations.  To do so belies anachronistic thinking based on post-Enlightenment assumptions.  The events surrounding the 1565 violence in Florida demonstrate the inextricable connection, in the European mind, between conquest and evangelism.   


Cook, Guillermo, “Protestant Mission and Evangelization in Latin America,” in Guillermo Cook, ed., The New Face of the Church in Latin America (Maryknoll: New York, 1994).

Dewhurst, William, The History of Saint Augustine, Florida (New York: Putnam, 1885).

Dussel, Enrique, A history of the Church in Latin America: Colonialism to Liberation (1492-1979), trans. Alan Neely (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1981.

Fairbanks, Charles “From Exploration to Settlement: Spanish Strategies for Colonization” in Alabama and. the Borderlands: From Prehistory to Statehood,Reid badger and Lawrence Clayton, eds. (University of Alabama Press, 1985).

Greenleaf, Richard, The Roman Catholic Church in Colonial America(Knopf: New York, 1971).

Horsley, Richard, “Religion and Other Products of Empire,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 71.1 (2003), 17.

Juergensmeyer, Mark, Terror in the Mind of God: the Global Rise of Religious Violence(University of California Press, 2000).

Laudonnière, René de, A notable historie containing foure voyages made by certayne French captaynes unto Florida, tr. T. Hakluyt (London, 1587).

McGrath, John T., The French in Early Florida: In the Eye of the Hurricane(Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000).

Oré, Luís Gerónimo de, The Martyrs of Florida (1513-1616), trans. Maynard Geiger, Franciscan Studies 18 (New York: Wagner, 1936).

Parkman, Francis, France and England in North America(Boston, 1874).

Ribault, Jean, The whole and true discouerye of Terra Florida, now newly set for the in Englishe (London, 1563).

Shipp, Barnard, The History of Hernando De Soto and Florida: Rocord of the Events of Fifty-Six Years (Philadelphia, 1881)

Weddle, Robert S., Spanish Sea: The Gulf of Mexico in North American Discovery: 1500-1685(Texas A&M University Press, 1985).


[1]For an account, see McGrath, The French, 27.

[2]McGrath, The French, 34.

[3]He thus agreed with the approach of Calvin’s preface to the Institutes.  There, Calvin had addressed King Francis I, and indicated his Likewise, though the French Colloquy of Poissy was a stillborn project, the attempt, in the minds of some organizers, was to reconcile Catholics and Protestants within the realm under one Gallican umbrella.  

[4]McGrath, The French, 37.  

[5]Parkman, France and England,22.

[6]Ribault, The discouerie,B3(v).

[7]Parkman, France and England, 29.

[8]McGrath, The French, 43.

[9]Dewhurst, The History, 26.

[10]Parkman, France and England,138.

[11]A French cabin boy, captured by the Spanish, clearly indicated that some members of the first expedition to Florida planned to raid Spanish settlements and ships.  

[12]McGrath, The French,68.

[13]Ribault, The discouerie, Aiiv.  Note: I have updated spellings in all early modern English translations.

[14]Dewhurst, The History, 39.

[15]Shipp, The History,496.

[16]Shipp, The History,496.

[17]Ribault, The discouerie,Aiiir.

[18]McGrath, The French, 101.

[19]Arriving in Florida, Laudonnière found the column Ribault had left to mark their domain. Their indigenous neighbors had adorned the column with flowers and were, according to Laudonnière, worshipping it, perhaps as a phallic idol.  

[20]Shipp, The History, 533.  Laudonnière recalls, “we received as many courtesies of the general as it was possible to receive of any man living, wherein doubtless he hath won the reputation of a good and charitable man, deserving to be esteemed as much of us all as if he had saved all our lives.”

[21]Shipp, The History, 552.

[22]Parkman, France and England, 88.

[23]Shipp, The History, 547.

[24]Shipp, The History, 547.

[25]Since he had heard Laudonnière was failing to lead well, he cordially relieved him of command, which probably came as a relief to Laudonnière who wanted to go back to France anyway.  

[26]Dewhurst, The History, 42.

[27]Shipp, The History, 538.

[28]Dewhurst, The History, 44.

[29]Shipp, The History, 553.

[30]Parkman, France and England, 114.

[31]Dewhurst, The History, 45.

[32]Parkman, France and England, 116.

[33]Shipp, The History, 555.

[34]Shipp, The History, 557.

[35]His devotion to the propagation of the Dewhurst, The History, 38. Thus, one older commentator writes concerning the Adelantado: “Catholic religion in Florida, and the sacrifices which he made to extend and continue the teachings of that faith, prove beyond a doubt his sincerity and fervent zeal … [In contrast to his treatment of the French, and based on his treatment of the indigenous society] his nature was not wantonly cruel.”

[36]Shipp, The History, 559.

[37]Shipp, The History, 560.

[38]Shipp, The History, 533.  There is disputed evidence that he died on his way to serve the Protestant Queen Elizabeth as commander of an English fleet.

[39]McGrath, The French, 163.

[40]Shipp, The History, 571.

[41]Shipp, The History, 580.  

[42]Juergensmeyer, 146

[43]Juergensmeyer 156, Natalie Zemon Davis, “The Rites of Violence: Religious Riots in Sixteent-Century France,” Past and Present59, May 1973, 52-53

[44]Greenleaf, 5. We must remember that forms of Erastianism, the idea that the church is subordinate to the state, existed not only in Henry VIII’s Anglicanism, but also in strands of what has been called Gallicanism, and in Philip II of Spain’s own view that he was the “supreme religious authority” for Spanish Catholics.  Thus, according to one observer, “Scholarly religious prelates in the New World made a strong case for excluding bishops from America, contending that the missionary clergy had already organized the spiritual conquest and that the king was the Royal Vicar in the Empire.”

[45]Horsley, “Religion,”, 17.

[46]Indeed, this is seen in some statements from the pens of those involved that indicate the Timucuan people they met in Florida had no religion.  True: they had spiritual beliefs and what we would call religious practices, but they did not see (though in retrospect it was there) how these so-called superstitions wove themselves through an all-encompassing worldview.

[47]Dussel, A History,33.

[48]Dussel, A History,34.

[49]Dussel, A History, 44.

[50]Fairbanks, “From Exploration to Settlement,” 212.  This all-encompassing aspect of Spanish colonization may have been necessary since, for practical reasons, the Spanish colonists needed to form an integrated society in order to survive.  Archaeological evidence at St. Augustine demonstrates that the Spanish, “depended heavily on the Indians” since, “It was assumed that once the Indians were converted to Christianity and settled in stable communities, they would pay taxes and tithes to church and state.”

[51]Cook, The New Face, 43.

[52]Laudonnière, A notable historie, A2v. 

[53]Juergensmeyer 131 

[54]Shipp, The History, 549.

[55]Parkman, France and England, 124.  

[56]Dewhurst, The History, 51.

[57]Oré, The Martyrs, 17.

[58]Weddle, Spanish Sea,328.

[59]Laudonnière, A notable historie,3.

[60]Ribault, The discouerie,A6(v)

[61]Juergensmeyer, Terror, 158.

[62]Oré, The Martyrs, 30.

[63]McGrath, 159.

[64]McGrath, 152.

[65]Parkman, France and England, 16-17.

Jeff exploring the Matanzas Inlet, site of much of the violence described in this paper.

Jeff exploring the Matanzas Inlet, site of much of the violence described in this paper.

Jeffrey Mallinson