28 August 1565: Spanish conquerors sight land off America

A 2015 reenactment of Menéndez de Avilés founding St Augustine.
A 2015 reenactment of Menéndez de Avilés founding St Augustine. / SUR
  • St Augustine is the oldest European settlement in the conterminous USA and has been occupied by Spain twice and Britain once

On 28 August 1565 the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, on board the San Pelayo, first spotted land on the southeast coast of America; the area that today is northeast Florida.

Menéndez de Avilés went on to name the settlement Saint Augustine in the name of the king of Spain and in honour of the saint whose feast day is celebrated on 28 August.

Menéndez de Avilés, who had been appointed pioneer and governor by King Philip II, set sail from Cadiz on 29 June that year.

Around one thousand men joined the admiral's fleet, which was made up of the king's galleon - the San Pelayo, the Magdalena, San Miguel, San Andrés and Concepción shallops (small boats), the Victoria galley, the Esperanza brigantine, the San Antonio and Nuestra Señora de las Virtudes caravels, and the Espíritu Santo and Nuestra Señora del Rosario vessels.

The admiral became the first governor of Florida and Saint Augustine is famous for being the first European city in the USA.

It is the oldest continually occupied settlement of European origin in the conterminous USA (the 48 adjoining states), with San Juan in Puerto Rico being the oldest on US territory. San Juan was established in 1521.

Saint Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida for 200 years, before becoming the capital of British East Florida in 1763.

The British returned it to the Spanish in 1783 and it became part of the USA in 1819.

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine of Hippo was a Roman Catholic Theologian who lived from 354 to 12 August 430 AD.

He was born in North Africa and converted to Catholicism on a trip to Rome. He died from malaria.

In 1295 Saint Augustine was canonised by Pope Boniface VIII. His mother was Saint Monica.

San Agustín, as he is known in Spanish, is the patron saint of the city of Linares in Jaén, which celebrates his feast on 28 August every year.