The Martyrs

There are forty-three martyrdom events under review.  Some events have one martyr and some have many.  All were killed in the evangelization of our nation’s colonial land known as La Florida.  It is a seamless story that began in 1549 with the courageous landing of the Dominicans in Tampa Bay – and ended in 1761 in Pensacola as three Apalachee Indians were killed trying to protect the Eucharist.

Below are links with brief summaries of presumed martyrs of colonial Florida that are currently under investigation.

A very special thank you to the Martyrs of La Florida Missions for this information

Fr. Luis Cáncer, O.P. (Barbastro or Zaragossa), Fr. Diego de Tolosa, O.P.; Brother Esteban Fuentes, O.P. (Tolosa)

Fr. Cáncer ministered successfully first in Puerto Rico and then in Guatemala, before turning his sights to Florida, which, according to an early historian, he “always held deep in his heart.” Having secured laborers, provisions, and permission from Spain, Fr. Cáncer set sail from Veracruz, Mexico, accompanied by fellow Dominicans and an interpreter.

On the vigil of the Ascension in the year 1549, this expedition sighted land just south of modern-day Tampa Bay (Bahía del Espíritu Santo). Fr. Cancer celebrated Mass in Florida on the Feast of Corpus Christi. At first the missionaries were welcomed by the native peoples, who knelt in prayer as Fr. Cáncer chanted litanies to God and to the saints. Gifts were exchanged.

Fr. Cáncer’s two companions, Fr. James and Brother Steven went ashore to stay with the natives, but they were killed on June 20. When Fr. Cáncer, on board a ship near present-day Safety Harbor, heard word of the killings, he resolved to journey to shore. As he made his way toward the woods, toward the natives who were hiding there, he was approached by a man who hugged him and began to lead him away. Then, apparently following a signal, Fr. Cáncer was surrounded by others; he was dragged toward the woods and clubbed to death.

Father Pedro Martínez, SJ (Teruel, Aragon)

The first wave of Jesuit missionaries to Florida arrived off the coast of Florida in September 1566. Three Jesuits were aboard: Fr. John Rogel, Br. Francis Villareal, and the thirty-two-year-old Fr. Peter Martínez, a brilliant scholar and teacher, compassionate rector, and strong athlete, who had begged repeatedly for permission to go on the missions to the New World.

Since the pilot was unable to locate the port of Santa Elena, he sought volunteers to go ashore in search of directions and badly-needed water. Fr. Martínez volunteered, thereby motivating others of the Flemish crew to join him. They were near the mouth of the St. John’s River. Fr. Martínez and his companions wandered for two weeks, cut off from the rest of the crew, who were in route to Hispaniola in advance of a fierce impending storm.

After being received hospitably by various tribes, eventually they encountered some who were hostile. Fr. Martínez, unwilling to abandon fellow members of his party who had gone ashore in search of food, was soon surrounded by hostile members of the Tacatucuru tribe who held him underwater and then dragged him to shore where they clubbed him to death. The site is not far from present-day Jacksonville.

  • Father Juan Bautista de Segura, SJ (Toledo),
  • Father Luis Francisco de Quirós, SJ (Jérez de la Frontera, Andalucía);
  • Brother Gabriel de Solís, SJ;
  • Brother Juan Bautista Méndez, SJ;
  • Brother Pedro de Linares, SJ (Valencia);
  • Brother Sancho Cevallos, SJ (Granada);
  • Brother Gabriel Gómez, SJ (Granada);
  • Brother Cristóbal Redondo, SJ

Frustrated with the progress of the mission in southern La Florida, Fr. Segura opted to venture far to the north, to the land of Ajacán, to the immediate west of the lower Chesapeake Bay (Bahía de la Madre de Diós). He was motivated to select this region because a native of that region, who had been picked up by an earlier Spanish expedition and taken to Spain and then Mexico, where he was baptized and took the name of Don Luis, offered to facilitate missionary efforts there. He was a member of the ruling family of the region.

Eight Jesuit missionaries departed Santa Elena in August 1570, accompanied by Don Luis as well as a fourteen-year-old boy, Alonso Olmos, who was to serve Mass for them. Soon after their arrival in modern-day Virginia, Don Luis abandoned the Jesuit missionaries and went to live with his family. Attempts to induce him to return met with failure. Finally, in early February 1571, Don Luis attacked the Jesuits in two separate incidents, killing them all. Only the boy Alonso survived. He was rescued nineteen months later by Governor Menéndez.

  • Fr. Pedro de Corpa, OFM (Convent of Astorga),
  • Fr. Blas Rodríguez, OFM (Province of San Gabriel);
  • Fr. Miguel de Auñon, OFM (Zaragoza, Convent of Vitoria);
  • Brother Antonio de Badajóz, OFM (Province of San Gabriel);
  • Fr. Francisco de Veráscola, OFM (Convent of Valladolid)

The sons of St. Francis came to Florida in 1573.  These Franciscans embraced the poverty modeled by their founder and began to live in native villages where invited.

In the fall of 1597, a few native Christian leaders led a revolt against the Franciscan missionaries, killing four priests and one brother.  The revolt was fueled by a rejection of the teaching against polygamy.

In a short time following the revolt, the native people began to ask for the Franciscans to return to them.  The Franciscans were not able to keep up with the new requests for Baptism and requested more friars.

“Missions which are being carried with great determination by the poor friars of the Order of Saint Francis on their bony skinny shoulders, and this they do because it is all from God and it is what nourishes the human strength of them who are men of consecrated souls and hands.  However, these friars are not content using their hands only to bless, they also work for God Our Lord, and with same hands that by making on the air the sign of the cross bless and heal souls, they plant the land and build churches as well.”

These Franciscan proto-martyrs were remembered and honored through the many generations of Christianity that followed in colonial Florida.

Fr. Marc journeyed to Apalachee from St. Augustine to talk with Apalachee leaders and assess their interest in inviting Friars to live in their villages.  The Apalachee people were welcoming and expressed interest.  While Father was with them, however, the Tocobaga Indians came from the Tampa region to conduct a slave raid among the Apalachee.

The Tocobaga Indians grabbed the Franciscan Fr. Marc:

“…saying that they were going to kill him because he was coming to take their wives from them and that if this religious did not want them to kill him he should take off his clothing or his Franciscan habit which he was wearing, and trample on the crucifix as well as the rosary which he was carrying; and to this the religious Friar Marcos responded that he had made a profession of his habit and of his religion and that the cross was the greatest representation of Jesus Christ and of his faith, and that if they wanted to kill him for that, that they should then kill him, because thus he would be with God in heaven more quickly than he was hoping.”

Fr. Marc is the proto-martyr of Tallahassee.

ather Vincent came from Cuba with the bishop for a pastoral visit to the missions of La Florida.  This visit would change his life. Father experienced a great love for the native people and a tremendous respect for the work of the Franciscans.  With his bishop’s permission, he stayed in St. Augustine and entered the Franciscan order as a novice. Many natives became Christian as a result of his example and instruction.

One day, Fr. Vincent and about twenty-five Christian Indians were bringing altar supplies and food from St Augustine to the new mission near the Suwannee River.  A large group of Tocobaga and Pojoy natives, who had a history of hatred of Christianity, fell upon them by surprise.  With bows and arrows, they began to shoot the Christians down one by one, killing seventeen.

Amidst the chaos, Fr. Vincent cried out loudly to spare the lives of the Indians, that he would gladly give them their food and supplies (“except for the clothes destined to the worship and service of God”).

Father was shot with an arrow through the shoulder and neck and then repeatedly clubbed.  The few surviving Indians carried their dying priest to the mission, where he received the sacraments before his death.

  • Fr. Diego de Figueroa, OFM (Castile),
  • Fr. Juan Nieto, OFM (Burgos);
  • Fr. Juan García, OFM (Palencia);
  • Nine Indian Converts; (Apalachee);
  • Claudio Luis de Florencia and his wife Francisca de Arteaga, their married daughter and husband with their son and unborn child, and a teenage daughter Antonia (Seville)

The Franciscans set up missions first to the north and then to the west of St. Augustine.  In the early 1600s, the Apalachee people requested that Franciscan friars live and minister among them.  They even planted large crosses in hopes of attracting friars to their land.

In 1633, the Franciscans at last came to Apalachee.  The friars desired hardships and sacrifices, and even martyrdom if God willed, to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the native people.   Missions began in Apalachee, and friar and Indian learned from each other and lived together as the Indians were catechized and thousands chose baptism.

During a celebration of a Feast of St. Anthony (the moving of the saint’s relics) a small number of Apalachee men along with non-Christian natives led a devastating attack.  The attack targeted both the Faith and the Spanish presence.  The perpetrators trapped three Franciscans – Father John, Father James, and Father García, and Mission San Luis’ deputy governor Claudio Florencia, his wife, a married pregnant daughter along with her husband and child.  The unborn child was cut from the mother’s womb.  Another teenage daughter preached the word of God so boldly to her attackers that they cut out her tongue.
During the revolt, seven of eight churches were burned to the ground.  Nine of the newly converted Apalachee were tortured and burned alive.  Due to the heroism of the Christian Apalachee, the lives of the other Franciscans were saved.

Martín, Lázaro, Enrique, Pablo, Josefa, Matilde, Mariana, Victoria, Prudencia (a girl), Antonico, Andrés, Miguel, and 6 others (Timucua)

Medicine men of the Westos tribe killed a group of Christian Timucuan men, women and children in a tragic and macabre event in 1661. The medicine men taunted the Christians and told them that they would “experience the pain of hell” before dying. They poisoned them with poisonous arrow tips.

“…two witch doctors or medicine men of the Chichimechos, who were recognized from their appearance—the feathers and paintings they were wearing—entered the hut where those who bled to death were. He said that others accompanied them—bowmen—who were carrying their arrows and spears; and many shouts were heard; and those who were seized were begging by God, Our Lord, and by the Most Holy Virgin, that they not kill them; and that in this situation these Chichmecos Indians merely laughed at them and told them that very soon they would depart for Heaven; and then the two witch doctors or medicine men left the hut, and the bowmen stayed behind; and nothing else happened; then the bowmen went away, and some time afterward the two Indians Ángel and Casualta entered and saw the dead persons; and they observed that they did not have visible wounds; their bodies were full of blood, in all parts, as if they had burst, but, as he said, there were no wounds.The older Indian, Casualta, said the same thing, and he added that they heard something that sounded like a groan or shouts of pain or of prayers. And then the medicine men of the Chichimecos left, and then the rest of the enemies, and then all was silence.”

Fr. Luis Sánchez y Pacheco, OFM (Havana, born in 1668), two young (Aypaja) Indian Altar Servers (one a cacique)

 

At 24 years-old, Fr. Sanchez was ordained a Franciscan priest in Havana.  He was zealous, joyful and a member of the choir.  He longed to serve in the Florida missions.   His prayer was answered and he was sent to serve at Mission San Luis in Apalachee (Tallahassee).

A missionary was later requested to serve in the Mission in Jorroro Province (central Florida) where there was danger and unrest.  Fr. Sanchez volunteered to go “with great joy.”

A revolt began in the nearby village, and Atoyquime natives came to kill Fr. Sanchez.  Fr. Sanchez’s servers for Mass were two young Aypaja natives, one an Indian chief. Finding the native altar boys with Father, the assailants told the young Indian chief that he must renounce his faith and kill the friar. He would do neither. Both boys were killed.

The assailants tied Father to a tree and pulled the cross from his neck.  Taunting him, they told him to ask the cross to save him.  Father asked that the cross be brought near him, and when it was, he kissed it.

“And that then the Father Fr. Luis Sánchez told them that he forgave them, because Jesus Christ always forgave, and that this his religion was the one of forgiveness…”

Mariana Viuda (Timucuan daughter of cacique), Jacinto (her son, about nine years old), 35 companions at the mission

 

The native people of San Juan del Puerto faced a surprise attack alone. The Creek assault on the peaceful mission resulted in the death or enslavement of almost all the natives of this Mission.

“…they kept asking the Indians whether they believed in their ancient [ancestral] religion. But all were baptized converts, and on realizing this the Creeks told them that if they too did not want to die there, they should renounce their Catholic religion and customs and spit on the Cross…”

Thirty-five of the forty-five villagers refused to spit on the cross and instead accepted torture and martyrdom on a bonfire burning with crosses.  The assailants seized the daughter of the Indian chief, the young mother and widow Mariana, along with her 9-year-old son.   Mariana, renowned for her holiness and charity, along with her son Jacinto, refused to spit on the cross.

“…they could not do such a thing, she said, because such a denial was tantamount to destroying her heart, because for her this Cross and her heart were the same…”

The Creek first tortured and killed the son in front of the mother.  Mother and son prayed the rosary together through it all.

“…but such was the holiness of this young boy that in the face of this tortuous plight he was praying his Ave Marias and the entire holy rosary that he knew so well. And his mother was praying the entire time along with him.  He kept praying the entire time until, being in the throes of death, he was unable to do so.  But neither the boy nor the Indian Mariana wavered.  They never lost their faith and their hope in the resurrection and the life everlasting.”

Marcos, Mateo (Apalachee), Prudencio (Apalachee)

Fr. Peter’s two altar boys were named Matthew and Mark, because when they were baptized they knew the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark very well.

Following Mass at a new Apalachee mission, Father Peter, Prudencio, who carried Father’s things, and Matthew and Mark were walking toward Mission San Luis when surprised by an attack of English and Creek.  Father was violently seized (and brought back to the Carolinas and tortured for months); Prudencio, a twenty-five-year-old man, was dragged into the woods, clubbed and never seen again.  Matthew and Mark lifted their arms in prayer; the assailants killed them by cutting off their arms “so they couldn’t pray to God any longer.”

Antonio Cuipa or Antonio Enija (Apalachee), Cui Domingo (Apalachee), Francisco El Chiquito (aka Feliciano) (Apalachee), Fernando (Apalachee), Fr. Juan de Parga Araujo, O.F.M. (Province of Santiago, Galicia)

 

The lead martyr Antonio was an Apalachee Indian. He was a layman—a husband, father, chief, and catechist. He was a carpenter, and he was devoted to St. Joseph. He was a skilled musician (a guitarist as well as a craftsman of flutes). He was also an evangelist, whose zeal and joy brought many native persons to Christianity.

Antonio’s life would end tied to a cross at the mission of La Concepción de Ayubale, where the English led a brutal attack.  Antonio was mocked for his faith and tortured with a fire burning under his feet for many hours.  Near the end, Antonio cried out from the cross.  The Virgin appeared to him at his side!  It was her eyes looking into his, he said, that gave him courage to endure his martyrdom.  His last words were that his body would fall to the earth, but that his soul was going to God.

Apalachee Indians Francisco El Chiquito and the Panther (Cui Domingo) were also killed tied to crosses and ridiculed for their faith.  In order to mock the short height of Francisco El Chiquito, the Creek cut his legs off.  The martyr responded that it was fine to do so – he didn’t need legs – because the angels would bring him into Paradise.

Fr. John Parga voluntarily accompanied the force that included Antonio, El Chiquito and the Panther to come to the aid of the people at Ayubale.  Before leaving Fr. Parga’s mission, San Pedro y San Pablo de Patale, Fr. Parga, a gifted preacher, spoke several hours to the faithful, emphasizing to them that the defense

of Ayubale was defending the very law of God.  Further, anticipating the martyrdoms, Fr. Parga said that this day will be “a day of great rejoicing.”

Although many times the faithful attempted to persuade Father Parga to remain at the Patale mission for his safety, he insisted on joining the mission under siege, for the encouragement of the faithful.   Father said that he “must go and die with his children.”

There was another prominent chief, Fernando, who, following a blow to the head at Ayubale, was thought to be dead.  When he regained consciousness, he was taken prisoner by the Creek, and then killed shortly thereafter when he refused to deny the Cross and spit on it.

“…he said that if they brought him a Cross he would pray before it to ask God our Lord that they would cease making raids and killing people… and would convert to the religion and to the Holy Church of Jesus Christ, and would listen to the words of the missionaries and thus leave their idols that are nothing but devils that deceive and dominate them, so that when they died they could be with God and the angels in his Kingdom

Samuel and Eliseo (Tocobaga in Apalachee)

 

One hundred and fifty-five years after Tocobaga Indians killed proto-martyrs Fr. Cáncer and his Dominican companions in Tampa Bay, two Tocobaga Indians were also martyred for the holy Catholic Faith –  that for so long they despised.

The English/Creek assaults on the missions continued after their attack on Ayubale January 26.  From mission to mission, the faithful were given the choice to renounce the Catholic Faith and live, or to accept torture and death.  This was the very situation for Samuel and Eliseo, forty-year-old catechists and interpreters (who chose names of the prophets at their baptism).

“…they told them that if they continued the said teaching they would kill them and that they had to renounce the Holy Catholic faith, which they professed, for it was a lie, and false, and return to the old beliefs that they had, and that if they did not do this they would take their lives. But they said that from their mouths there would never come other or more words than the prayers they learned and the holy faith and Catholic catechism that were from the Scriptures and [that they] taught to the other Indians[,] their brothers, and that this they did affirm and that death did not frighten them because it would make shorter their path to heaven. This having been said, they were set upon by the Creeks with great wrath, and[,] holding them, they cut off both their tongues. And they would say to them: now in what form and manner are you going to teach this false religion of yours, now that we have removed the tongues.”

The assailants continued the mocking and torture and then beheaded these faithful converts and teachers of the Catholic Faith.

Benigno and Jose (native catechists), Antonio and Alberto (El Bermejo) (caciques)

 

The English/Creek invasions of the missions continued following the attack on Ayubale. The martyrdoms that took place in the Apalachee village of Tama y la Candelaria include those of the two Indian sacristans and teachers Benigno and Jose, and the two chiefs, Antonio and Alberto (El Bermejo).

“…when the Creek threatened them with death and torture they responded that they did not want a different destiny from that of their Church because by being in their said Church they were in the house where God lives and because of that they would not leave because God’s house was their house and they wanted no other house.”

The assailants mocked these Christian Indians by binding them to the floor of the church, so that they would share the same destiny of the church.  And they set the church ablaze.

Cacica Maria (Apalachee), 45 – 50 years’ old, Jacinto, Tomás (senior jefes); Bienvenido (catechist), Epifanio (10 or 12-year-old altar boy) 

The English and Creek bandits attacked Christian Indians near the Wacissa River and tied them up by twos to take as slaves to the Carolinas, when resistance came in the person of a lady Indian Cacica, 45- 50 years old, named Maria.  Maria knew and loved her Faith, and when she resisted, some forty followed her in acceptance of death, rather than leaving their church. Those who followed include two senior chiefs Jacinto and Tomás, and the catechist Bienvenido, and the 10-year-old altar boy, Epifanio.

“…And these[,] with the example being given by the cacica whose age was about forty-five15 or fifty years, and whom everybody obeyed, said that they did not want to go with them, and that death was better than going with them, [and] if they took them from these lands they would be far from their churches and of the religious who were like fathers to them, and that it was better to lose their lives for the holy faith of Jesus Christ than to allow themselves to be taken from their land by such evil masters.

And the Creek who heard them made great mockery of them, and at seeing they resisted and were firm in their determination they struck them with blows and with great fury they would say that now they were going to kill them in the water, and die by drowning, since they wanted to die first before being taken away, and that in this way they would not be in their land, but as fish in the water of that river.”

They were thrown in the river after being tied in twos and then shot with arrows

Manuel (Apalachee), 14 or 15 years old, altar server, sacristan, interpreter, aspiring postulant

The fourteen-year-old Apalachee Indian Manuel aspired to be a Franciscan priest.  He spent his days helping the Franciscans.  The English and Creek attacked the new mission, still not consecrated, named the Virgin Mary Immaculate, and set fire to the homes, food, and of course the new chapel.  The few Indians not killed in the attack fled except for the young Manuel.  He grabbed a tapestry and ran to the chapel to put out the flames, crying out for help.  There were no Christians left to help.

“…And when the Creeks heard him shouting they came, and upon seeing that he was trying to put out that fire, two of them managed to grab hold of him and take him, and meanwhile that Indian named Manuel was shouting loudly, begging help, and [saying] that for the love of God they should not burn the chapel, and they grew tired of hearing him shout and they struck his mouth to make him shut up, and they did this with such force that they smashed his teeth. And with his smashed mouth he kept shouting and he told them that they were going to lose their souls because they had burned that house, which belonged to God…one of the Creeks, mocking and taunting him with great cruelty told him to speak with his God, and that if He had so much power He would put out that fire so that His house would not be burned, or that He would make it rain so that the fire would be extinguished with water from heaven.”

The assailants then scalped him, cut off his arms (to keep him from praying) and held his head in the water where the animals drank until he drowned.

Fr. Manuel de Mendoza, O.F.M. (Medina de Rioseco), sacristan (Apalachee)

Following the January attacks on Ayubale and other missions, the Apalachee people and their friars were devastated from the loss of so many killed or enslaved.  Father Parga had been killed in Ayubale, and Father Manuel de Mendoza replaced him as new pastor of San Pedro y Pablo de Patale, where he “aroused and encouraged” the distraught families.  Father Mendoza, youngest of eight children, from Medina de Rioseco, professor in Spain, came to Florida as a missionary in 1678 when he was thirty-two.  He was known for his charity among the poor Indian and Spanish families, giving away everything he had.

After celebrating the vigil Mass for St. John the Baptist, he was tricked out of his home.  Father Mendoza, twenty-six years of missionary labor and love, was shot and then burned to death at the age of fifty-eight. Fr. Mendoza and his sacristan were martyred together.

Baltasar Francisco (Los Silos, Island of Teneriffe, Canary Islands), Don Pedro Marmolejo (soldier of Presidio Santa María de Galve), 15 Indians (Apalachee)

The survivors grouped at Mission San Luis determined that they would try to regain their parish, San Pedro y Pablo de Patale, in what would become the Last Stand for the Catholic faith in Apalachee.  They spent the night west of the chapel, off el Camino Real, to meet with assistance from another mission.  A skirmish triggered the battle and the defenders of the missions were soundly defeated.  Baltasar Francisco, an old soldier from Los Silos on the Island of Teneriffe, who had served in Apalachee for fourteen years, and Pedro Marmolejo were captured along with Apalachee companions, and brought to the Stations at Patale, tied to crosses, tortured and killed.

Baltasar preached in the Apalachee tongue from the cross and said that the Most Holy Virgin would carry him to God with much pleasure “knowing that he would go to enjoy his holy glory.”  He “suffered with great martyrdom” and died crying out to the Virgin.

The native tribes had a tradition of honoring courage in their enemies as well as in their own warriors by placing a crown made of parakeet beaks and animal hair on their head of the corpse.  When friends came to Patale to bury the dead, they found Baltasar Francisco dead at the foot of a cross, with a crown upon his head.

Fr. Augustín Ponce de León, O.F.M. (St. Augustine), Jacinto and Julio (Indian altar boys), Roberto Ibaja

On September 3rd, 1705, Father Augustine was returning to his mission, Nombre de Dios Chiquito, when he received word that two young native altar boys, Jacinto and Julio, had been seized during an English/Creek raid on his mission. Father was a large and strong man “with an apostle’s heart.”  He and his native friend, Roberto Ibaja, took off running, following the trail of the captors.

Once they were in earshot, Father threw his arms in the air to show them he had no weapons.  Father asked them to take him instead, and let the two boys go.

“…And Friar Augustine was shouting, with which a great noise was heard, telling the Creek to stop their intent and their evil purposes, because there is one God in Heaven who sees everything; and to let his altar boys go…”

The captors struck Fr. Augustine in the head with an axe.  Father, bleeding profusely, still ran after the captors and the boys, pleading

“…Friar Augstine would not cease in his effort to have them within his reach, shouting for the love of God that they ought to let the altar boys go and not carry them away, because they were children without blame…”

The captors killed the boys in front of Father and then killed this loving priest.  When his good friend Roberto returned to carry and move Father’s body for Christian burial, he too was shot down with arrows.

Fr. Augustine is our nation’s first native-born who became a priest and martyr.

Friar Pedro de Galíndez, O.F.M. (Cádiz, Province of Andalusia), Friar Lucio de Herrera, O.F.M. (Lleida, Catalonia)

Early in 1706, while walking to the fort in Pensacola

“ the said Franciscan religious, Friar Pedro de Galíndez and Friar Lucio de Herrera, both religious were going a little behind them because the said Friar Pedro, already an elderly  man, was  so tired  that he walked  very slowly with  some kind of cane  in  order  to  help  himself,  and  the  other,  Friar  Lucio, would  help  him  to  prevent  him  from stumbling.”

The Creek seeing them alone and vulnerable, attacked.  Fr. Pedro was killed with an axe and beheaded him.

Father Lucio was carrying the Eucharist and made every effort to escape.  He was shot with arrows as he ran, and fell to the ground.

“…they saw that Friar Lucio [was] still alive and was trying to hold some Hosts together with his hands, because he had with him a ciborium where he carried said Hosts, and to prevent them from being profaned  by the Creeks,  he thrust them  in  his  mouth (as  many as  he could)  in order to consume them himself, as he still had some of them in his mouth, and others [were] all around him on the ground,  but  the  soldiers  picked  them  up  because  the  poor  religious  was  already  dying,  and  he only said that God knew everything and would forgive him and take him to his glory, and that he was  asking  mercy  for  those  Indians,  who,  due  to  their  tremendous  ignorance  and  misery,  had profaned  those  blessed  Hosts.  But he said no more, and right there he gave up his soul, as his whole body and even the ground itself were pouring his blood…”

Antonio (Guale), Francisco (Timucuan), Lazaro (Timucuan), one unknown Franciscan companion

Reports detail four killed and decapitated at a mission serving Indians of the Mobila tribe.  The four dead were three Indians and a Franciscan.  The identity of the Franciscan is not certain.

The three Christian Indians had traveled far and risked their lives to bring the Gospel to the native people of Mobile.  The three are Anthony, Guale native, and Francis and Lazarus, both Timucuan natives.

Fr. Domingo Criado, O.F.M. (Province of Santiago [de Compostela?])

Following the loss at the Last Battle, the Catholic faith was silenced in Apalachee.  The destruction would continue east along El Camino Real to St. Augustine.  After more than 150 years of building the faith in colonial Florida, there would be few Christian survivors.

Fr. Domingo Criado, Franciscan priest, “would not leave the sheep in his charge” and went with his mission to wander the woods for safety.  Father Domingo chose to stay with his flock accepting the hunger and hardship of life in the woods to bring his parishioners comfort and the sacraments.  Yet, they were discovered in a wood on the bank of a large river (near St. Augustine). His parishioners were killed and Father was captured and kept as a slave.  They stripped him of his holy habit and mocked him.  They inflicted terrible cruelties upon him until he died in their captivity.

Don Patricio de Hinachuba (Cacique of Ivitachuco, Apalachee), Don Andres (Apalachee), Cacique Stanislaus (Apalachee)

Great Indian chief of the Apalachee mission at Ibitachuco, Don Patricio was a truly remarkable man in our nation’s history.  In his lifetime, he was known for his holiness, integrity and charity. Loved and respected by Indian and Spanish alike, he was called “Cacique of the Poor” (Chief of the Poor).

He corresponded with both King Charles II and King Philip V about Spanish mistreatment of the Indians – and became known as ‘pen pal of the King’.  He was the defender of the Indians. Once, when Spanish Sergeant Ruy López struck a young child in his tribe for playing too noisily, Don Patricio led the boy and his family and his people to the home of the Spanish sergeant. Don Patricio addressed him,

“[“] Sergeant, you must ask forgiveness to God Father and to all these Indian converts [who are] in front of me for I am their cacique. [ ”]

And the Sergeant said to him that he did not know cause or motive for which he should ask God for forgiveness, and asked why he should do so. And Don Patricio then gave him [the] answer [:] [“] because you struck God and must ask forgiveness to Him who is in the heavens. [”] But then he made the reply [,] the said Sergeant [,] to tell him that he was crazy because he had never struck God and that God cannot be struck.

And at this Don Patricio put his hand on the shoulder of the said Sergeant and told him[:] [“] you did strike a blow to God because you struck this boy and because of     that you have to ask for forgiveness to this boy and his family who is here in front and to the other Indians and to me because I am their Cacique and Enija because       we are all Christians of the same Catholic faith. Because Jesus Christ said that it must be allowed for the children to approach him and not to be struck like you did.      And he also said that all evil done to one of these little ones was done to Him and because of that you gave a blow to God our Lord and must request forgiveness. [ ”]

And the said Sergeant Ruy López in this circumstance asked forgiveness to God and the boy.”

A group of Creek assailants arrived in St. Augustine before sunrise on April 28, 1706 to attack the surrounding missions “they can cause some damage that will satisfy their allies the English, who are enemies of the faith.” Two elderly Indian chiefs confronted them and were seized: Don Patricio and his good friend and senior chief of Mission San Luis, Don Andres “a good Catholic of daily prayer.”

The Creek Indian chief placed a cross before them

“and told them to spit on it and then break it into pieces, and to throw the pieces to the fire to make a big bonfire with it, and  that  if  they  didn’t  do that of  their  own  accord, then  they  themselves  would  be  spat  on,  and their  arms  and  legs  torn  apart,  and then  burned  in  a  big  bonfire  that  they  were  going  to  light  in order to throw them in it and cause their death. But the aforesaid senior chiefs, or Enijas, whose names were Don Patricio and Don Andrés, didn’t give the least sign of fear for the said Creek, because they are men of integrity and confidence for their example and worthy condition, …

because the only fear they had was the fear of God our Lord, they struck them with their clubs until they broke all their bones, so that they could no longer remain standing, and said: “ Since you didn’t want to leave the Cross or spit on it, we will now strike you to death and spit on you to mock [your religion] and to fill you with shame, and we do this in front of this Cross, and just as we told you to spit on it and burn it, at this time both of you are spat on and stricken with clubs, and you will now undergo a painful death, because we [will] burn you in the same bonfire as we will burn said Cross.”

In order to “kill them twice” however, since Don Patricio and Don Andres were still alive after beating them with axes and clubs, the Creek dragged the two

Apalachee Indian chiefs to the river and thrust their heads in the water to drown them and then they threw them upon the bonfire

“even Don Patricio would say that for a short while of pain and death they would reach life eternal beside God in heaven, and that this was the reason they had no fear, but haste, because they wanted to be very soon together with God our Lord.  And this what the said Don Patricio kept repeating, and Don Andrés would not complain, and when the said Don Patricio spoke, when he finished he [i.e. Don Andrés] would say, “Amen, Amen.”  And thus they both suffered, but they died without denying their faith.”

Fr. Tiburcio de Osorio, O.F.M. (San Cristobal de la Havana), born 1668

False reports of Fr. Tiburcio’s death at Mission San Luis (Apalachee) circulated for some time.  It is not clear if the false report describing a martyrdom at San Luis is true – but involving another priest – or if it is not true.  Research on this event continues.

Here is documented history of the true martyrdom of Fr Tiburcio, who was kidnapped in 1704 from Apalachee (possibly defending the Eucharist, but this is not clear).  He was held in a prolonged martyrdom for over 2 years.  He was released in October of 1706 and died as a result of his tortures on March 17, 1707.

“Fray Tiburcio de Osorio y Medina…was born in the city of San Cristóbal of Havana in the Island of Cuba, on the 16th of the month of January (which is the feast of the Holy Moroccan Martyrs that belonged to the Order of our Seraphic Father Saint Francis) in the year 1668. … He was a novice of great recollection and devotion. He slept little and spent many hours with the Rosary in his hand, and was greatly fond of sacred music and the Liturgy of the Hours.

He also liked everything that concerned our holy Seraphic Order of Saint Francis, and having met all the requirements, he was finally ordained and made profession as Franciscan and took his habit in the year 1698, on the 4th of October, the feast of St. Francis.”

During his captivity:

“And while all this time passed, the poor and miserable Friar Tiburcio was near St. George of the Carolinas, undergoing maltreatment without end on his sacred person as a priest of God and of the Holy Church, because those who held him in prison would beat him and sometimes would shoot arrows

at him without killing him, so that when he returned he was all covered with many wounds of arrows and black spots of strikes, with one leg full of cuts and lanced and covered with bad humors, so that he smelled very badly. And thus, in the midst of these events, without being able to avail himself or find any remedy, alone among so many enemies, who would only give him little water to drink and some maize grits with herbs…

And for this reason and in this way and manner he was in fact returned, but in a state of extremely poor condition, as he was so weak and skinny that he had great pain when he walked, limping, for one of his legs was badly smelling with bad humors and festering that came out of so many wounds…

He was brought to San Agustín by a few soldiers … riding a mule, because he couldn’t walk. He finally arrived … in San Agustín on the 9th day of October of the year 1706. And he was taken to the house of a resident where there would be more room for caring for him and cleaning his wounds, as well as more medicines. But the said Friar Tiburcio wouldn’t speak, save for a few and poorly connected words, and his mind seemed to be lost. He would only smile when he was given to read the book of the Hours, which he would gladly read, and he didn’t want to hear about anything but the liturgy and the rule of the Seraphic friars. And if someone visiting him asked about his long and extremely rough captivity, he would lower his head and would only say that he had suffered everything remembering the Cross, and he would speak no more.

… There came also a doctor and physician that was sent from Cuba … with poultices and preparations for the cures. Every day he would clean his wounds and dress them, and remove the bad humors, and in this way and manner he continued to live. But his body was gradually wearing out and shrinking like a candle wick; each day would find him skinnier, and with yellowish flesh that resembled old wax.

God our Lord had great pity and mercy, so that he gave up his soul to the Lord on the 17th day of the month of March of the year 1707.”

News of the kidnapping was not made public because Governor Zuniga was secretly trying to negotiate his release. Since his death was a result of the long tortures he suffered, his death is indeed a martyrdom.

Five natives: Juan Yustegue and wife Soledad, son Antonio; master quarryman Rafael, assistant Apolonio

The English Colonel Palmer and Creek allies assaulted the mission of Nombre de Dios Chiquito, just south of San Marcos castle in St Augustine.  Five Indians did not flee and instead tried to put out the fire to their mission

“…whose names, were Antonio, which was their baptismal name,  and two other Indians who were old Christians  and worked as mason officers, their trades and baptismal names being the master stonemason Rafael, who had been involved in the construction of the Fort and Castle of San Marcos, and his assistant, named Apolonio, and they all died because they were trying to put out the fires that were already lit, and then the Creek Indians fell upon them and started wounding them with arrows and knives, and finally murdered them with the axes, then tore off the skin and the hair from their heads, and, once they were dead, they were all grabbed and their bodies thrown to the fire that was consuming everything.”

“…these Indians now intercede for them before our Lord God in heaven.”

Joseph

Colonel Palmer and his Creek allies attacked the missions in St. Augustine.  In addition to the five Indians they killed at Nombre de Dios Chiquito, they also killed the Indian man, Joseph, near Nombre de Dios.  They shot him in the back as he was running with the Eucharist.

“…baptized Indian named Joseph, in the vicinity of the same aforesaid Mission of Nombre de Dios, who was a sickly, skinny and weak atiqui (translator), who despite not being used to harsh tasks and not having physical strength for them, was always busy keeping the [Mission’s] chapel clean, and would as easily evangelize as maintain all the utensils of the church, which would shine, as clean as he kept them. And on the said day, 16th of December, some Creeks who were marauding around and stalking came to the boundary of the aforementioned Mission, near the chapel, and, when the Indian Joseph saw them, he ran and took out the Hosts from the ciborium, and fled to prevent the Sacred Forms from falling into the hands of the Creeks. But when the latter saw him running, shot arrows at him and wounded him, and once he fell on the ground they killed him with their clubs. Then, upon the arrival of a couple veterans who were patrolling, named Basilio Gonzálvez and Fernando de Jijón, who shot at them, the said Creeks ran away, and there remained Joseph, now dead, with the ciborium and the Hosts under his body.”

Bautista del niño Jesus (Ybaja Indian)

The English under Oglethorpe and their allied natives invaded St. Augustine in September 1739, but they were resisted by the Ybaja Indians, led by the caciques Juan Ignacio de los Reyes and Bautista del Niño Jesús. Bautista was captured by the Creeks. He was later rescued, though he was on the point of death. He had been told to renounce his faith and spit on the Cross he was wearing.  When he refused, the assailants burned and wounded him. He forgave them because they acted out of ignorance. Bautista was an Indian chief, a translator and catechist.

Bautista was buried under the altar and for many years to follow, the faithful brought their new babies to the altar and prayed that their child would have the faith of Bautista.  So popular was the devotion to this martyr that ten years later, the old Franciscan priest of the mission finally announced that he would not baptize any more babies ‘Bautista’

“which causes great confusion to an old Franciscan religious, [named] Pedro de Alcántara, who goes there to celebrate Mass and baptisms; because this religious refuses to give all the same name of Bautista, because [if he did] then all the Indians in this doctrine would be called in equal manner.”

Chief Felipe and Anselmo (Apalachee)

On October 2, 1739, four or five Englishmen and a band of about fifty Creek Indians attacked the Apalachee farms a half-league from the city of St. Augustine.

During the assault, the Creek held an old Apalachee Indian Chief Felipe, a holy man and good friend of the Franciscans, who served at Mass, was a catechist and taught other natives Spanish grammar. The Creek tore the cross off Felipe’s neck and told him to step on it, and “if he was truly a warrior, that he would spit on it and deny the false religion of the Spanish.”

Felipe professed the Faith and would not give in knowing that “he would go to Heaven with God our Lord, his Son Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Francis and the Angels ant the other Indians whom they had killed before and he knows are in the glory and kingdom of God.”

The record states “and when he had said this, and they saw that he wouldn’t deny his religion, but rather was preaching to them, they were so infuriated that they fell upon him and beat him to death.”

A relative of Chief Felipe, Anselmo, was regaining consciousness following the blows he had received.  He made his way to Felipe to try to help his chief.  The Creeks also demanded of Anselmo that he too deny the Faith.  When he refused, he too was killed.

Eladio (Yamasee), Roberto (Yamasee)

The English under Oglethorpe, “this enemy of Spain and of our Catholic religion and of our faith”, and their allies the Creeks attacked the shrine of Our Lady of la Leche on July 22, 1740. They were beaten back, but not before they burned and desecrated the shrine.

Two Yamassee Indians Eladio and Roberto were found dead of musket wounds within the chapel. Their blood had made a pool on the dirt floor. These Indians had been given the honor and responsibility of caring for the shrine.

“…both of them baptized and of great faith and veneration to the same Virgin Our Lady, and that both of them helped the religious when they celebrated the Masses there, and that they taught the Catechism to the other Indians… They fulfilled all their duties and carried them out and accomplished them with much zeal and great dedication and care, because the said holy image of the Blessed Virgin of the Milk and of the Good and Happy Childbirth was greatly venerated by all, since she was very miraculous and took care of her children at all times and in all things…

 

…But these two Indians, Eladio and Roberto, as it seems, died before the altar of the said chapel and the holy image of the Virgin Our Lady of the Milk and of the Good and Happy Childbirth, when they were trying to stop the enemies that were ruining and burning everything, and the only resort they had for this was to shoot arrows at the Creek Indians, so they armed themselves with their bows and the arrows they had in their quivers and shot their enemies, and as a result of this defense, five of the said Creek Indians died from the arrows [that were shot at them], and these arrows could still be

seen in their bodies. And due to this defense they made, the two of them were killed when they were fighting against the Creeks in order to defend the image of Our Lady the Virgin…

and that the Indians Eladio and Roberto died as a result of having been shot by the Creek Indians, it can be known that they died in defense of their faith, when with great zeal they wanted to avoid the destruction of the holy image of the Virgin, which was destroyed by the bullets of the English.”

Six witness testified to their martyrdom by “the Holy Cross and the Gospels.”

Don Gonzalo (carpenter) (Apalachee), his wife Dona Marta, son Enriquillo, nine companions including two more children (Apalachee);

Sergeant Major Contreras made a tragic discovery while making his rounds in the surrounding area of St Augustine in August of 1759.  Circling vultures and a terrible odor led him to a ditch where he found a dozen half-burned bodies, three of whom were children.

The surviving witnesses testified to a Creek attack.  These twelve Apalachee Indians refused to deny their Catholic faith.  The assailants killed them with axes and truncheons, and then threw their bodies into a fire.

Fr. Lucas de León, O.F.M.

Father Luke was a native of St. Augustine.  Father Luke and another older Franciscan, Fr. Gabriel, along with two young native catechists, were journeying to bring the sacraments to the natives on the two-day stretch from St. Augustine to Lachua (Gainesville).   (The exact location of the martyrdom is yet to be determined.)

A band of marauding Creek attacked this group in May of 1759.  The Christian Indians managed to hide and thereby became witnesses to the martyrdom.  The Creek “beat, taunted, and scalped the Franciscans, leaving them for dead”

After the assailants ran off, the Christian Indians came back to bring the priests for burial, and found that Father Luke was indeed dead, and Fr. Gabriel had survived.

Antonio Bendito, (Anthony the Blessed) (Chicasa Indians), Anselmo, Juan Ignacio the younger and his brother Estaban, Juan el Viejo (John the older)

Among a group of Chicasa Indians who were fishing at the sea near Pensacola, was a Chicasa man known as “the Blessed Indian” or “Anthony the Blessed” because of his holiness and charity.

“… he was very generous and kind, a very devout and faithful Catholic who considered nothing as his own, who would share his maize, his animals and possessions with those who had nothing, and that was the reason why all [the Indians] respected him highly and loved him…”

 

A group of Cherokee and Talapuche Indians fell upon them for a slave raid.  They began to tie the Chicasa Indians together at the neck with leather straps when a group, led by Anthony the Blessed resisted.  He explained that they helped the Franciscan priests at the Masses and that the Franciscans taught them the things of God, and that therefore they could not go with him.

“the said Anthony, with no fear of them, just stayed there, standing, and went on speaking and preaching to them [as if they were] at church, and told them that they were doing wrong, but that if they repented and asked God’s forgiveness, then the Father, in His infinite mercy and for the great love He had for them, would forgive them as their Father; and he said all this, and he spoke to them in such a way, in the name of all the others and in their stead, to the said Cherokee Indians and to the others that were Talapuche, when they were threatening all the more strongly to kill them all if they did not disavow their faith to go with them. And it was at that time that he [i.e.,

Anthony] told them and explained to them that it was better to die for the faith of Jesus Christ and the holy Catholic religion as free servants of God, than to carry a life as their slaves in lands of the English for fear of the harm they could inflict them, no matter how many further offenses and blows they might cause them. But that, if they died for God, they would go to heaven; and, from that point of view, it was a small thing to die for God, because Jesus Christ Himself had died on a Cross in order for them to live with him forever in heaven. He also said that he carried the cross of St. Francis, which is also the cross of St. Anthony, like his baptismal name, and that he could not disown it; and [then] of the Indians tore it from his neck, and he said to them that he was alive on that cross, and that if they killed him that would make no difference, because he would continue to be alive and preaching from the cross. And then they started striking him and throwing stones at him, and while this happened, the Indian Antonio fell to the ground, but he didn’t stop speaking about the faith of heaven and saying that he was asking God to forgive them, and he was also asking them [his executioners] to allow him to tell them about God and His Holy Mother, the Virgin, and he never stopped preaching and went on speaking about God. And when the others [that were with him] were asked, they all said the same thing as the Blessed Anthony was saying, and they added that they were happy to die, because thus they would be all the sooner with their Father God in the heavens.”

The slavers beat Blessed Anthony, Anselm, John the Older, John Ignatius the Younger and his brother Stevan, and then burned them to death.

Elpidio Jose, Alberto and Matias el Chico (Apalachee interpreters)

A group of English/Creek attacked Apalachee Indian refugees living in Pensacola on April 7, 1761.  Three devout and faithful Christian Apalachee translators died in defense of the Eucharist in a beautiful chapel built with great love by their priest and fellow natives.

“Without any mercy in their fury so cruel, the three atiquis were killed by them when they tried to protect the cup with the hosts and the tabernacle so that they would not profane them, and in this they seized them right there in front of the altar and altar stone and cut off their scalps and beat them and decapitated them, and finally they burned them with the chapel that they set fire to.”

The following events are also under investigation as martyrdoms:

  • 3 men (Apalachee), January 26–February 28, 1704, Santa Cruz de Ychuntafun?
  • 22 Apalachee persons, “about” 9 women, 7 infants and children, 6 men; January 26–February 28, 1704, San Martín de Tomole
  • 1704 event of “no less than 200 Apalachee” people witnessed by Elena, Felicity and Clara, survivors.
  • Apalachee Indian Cacique/Cacicas (chiefs) killed in 1704: Luis, Miguel, Ramón, Mateo, Ángel, Pedro. Clara, Buenaventura, Prudencio. Eliseo. Bárbara. Venancio. Leticia. Rafael, Another also of name Miguel, Esteban, Isabel, Dolores. Constancio, Lazaro, Macario, Ramiro.
  • Jose Ancieta, O.F.M. (lay brother) (1704?)
  • Timucuan chiefs of San Pedro and San Mateo Missions 1705
  • 3 natives, May 1740, cornfields next to Nombre de Dios, St. Augustine
  • Spanish family, two events in 1761, associated with attack on San Antonio de Punta Rasa, Pensacola

There are three things you should know about these holy men, women and children.

  1. This list is not final. Full-time research is ongoing and is expected to be completed before May 31, 2017. Each proposed martyr’s cause must be supported in light of the formal and material elements of martyrdom and the strength of the testimony of the witnesses to the martyrdom.  The documentary evidence must be certain. (The historians must then testify to the Tribunal, and the process to beatification must be followed exactly.)
  2. The Church requires that all documents remain sealed while the martyrdoms are investigated. Therefore, there are uncited quotes pending verification by the historians; the documents and their sources may not be released until the Church has completed her investigation.
  3. A note about the “anonymous martyr”:  The Church may canonize an individual whose name is unknown, if he or she and the martyrdom is otherwise known.  However, if the ‘anonymous martyr’ is known by a number or name only, this is not enough information for the Church to canonize.  There are many people who died for the Faith in La Florida, especially the Apalachee people, who will not be in the cause.  The reason is that they are too “anonymous”.