We're spending more time in St. Augustine than we'd planned. How unusual? It's not just us, however. The weather including the never-ending Tropical Storm Bonnie, has contributed to keeping us here … along with no desire whatsoever on the part of the crew to depart. We find more excuses to stay than to leave, so here we are … Week 2 of our one week stay in St. Augustine. The city of St. Augustine is rich in churches and we love just wandering through them. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine stands regally across from the Plaza de la Constitución. Constructed of coquina and limestone in the late 18th century (1793-1797), it replaced three previous churches built on the same site that had all been demolished by fire (with the help of the British). It is considered the oldest church in Florida. Because of the tree cover and time of day, I found it hard to get a good photo, so I nicked one from the Internet to show you how grand it is with its Spanish style architecture.
The interior was cool and inviting with its Spanish tile floors and timbered, vaulted ceiling. The difference between a cathedral and a basilica, we learned, is simply that a cathedral is the primary church of the diocese and residence of the bishop, while a basilica has been deemed by the Pope to be a church building that has religious and/or historical significance to the Catholic Church.
Stained glass windows depicting the life of St. Augustine were beautiful with the afternoon sun gleaming through them.
There are several alcoves along the outer aisles dedicated to specific saints and religious persona. Shaped like a cross, the side altars held statuary and small altars. We were surprised to find unmistakable St. Patrick, golden shamrock in hand, standing in an alcove of green behind flickering candles.
The main altar, as is traditional in Catholic churches, is rich and ornate with gold-leaf décor.
Though the cathedral is impressive, it does not outshine the Flagler Memorial Presbyterian church a few blocks away, tucked behind Flagler College. Built by oil tycoon and business magnate, Henry Flagler, as a memorial to his daughter, Jenny, and her infant daughter, this absolutely beautiful church was built in less than year's time. In accordance with Flagler's directives, over a thousand men worked 24x7 in shifts to complete this amazing structure, so that it could be dedicated on the first anniversary of Jenny's death.
The architecture and interior detail are magnificent. A very knowledgeable docent and current member of the church provided lots of interesting information about the church and Henry Flagler, its benefactor.
Of particular notice was the beautiful domed ceiling, reminiscent of heaven itself.
Flagler later built a mausoleum attached to the church which now entombs Flagler and his first wife, as well as Jenny and her infant daughter, Marjorie.
The afternoon waned and in early evening we headed to the old city plaza for a free concert on the green. We'd brought a blanket with us and found a strategic spot to spread it in front of the plaza gazebo, then waited patiently and most pleasantly for the entertainment to begin.
This is the city's 26th year of presenting local entertainment on the plaza on Thursday nights during the summer. The Driftwoods, a 4-piece bluegrass group, began right on time at 7 pm. The playlist included a little bit of everything ... Gospel, bluegrass, C&W, traditional and original songs. Guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass and dobro notes rang out harmoniously in the warm evening air. Hands were clapping, toes were tapping and bodies swayed to the rhythm. It was delightful.
Two hours of sitting on the ground had us stove-up and lame when we finally folded our blanket, unfolded ourselves and walked back to the marina. The evening was beautiful as we passed under gas lamps lighting the plaza, walked past Ponce de Leon and checked out the Bridge of Lions nighttime view before heading back to Nine of Cups.
We need to leave soon, we know … but not just yet.