National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios
Visit the Nation’s Sacred Acre.
Designated as a National Shrine in 2019, the first Mass on North American soil was celebrated at this site on September 8, 1565.
Today, the shrine serves as a sanctuary of prayer and devotion for pilgrims from around the world. Visitors to this truly inspirational site can experience the Great Cross, the Chapel of Our Lady of La Leche, a Rosary Garden, the site of the original church and much more.
When is the Mission Nombre de Dios open?
It is open daily. Monday thru Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 4 p.m.
How much are tickets?
Admission is free of charge. Donations are welcomed.
How long does it take to explore the mission?
It takes a minimum of one hour to experience the mission grounds. Most visitors take much longer, especially those seeking a quiet place of contemplation in one of the nation’s most sacred locations.
Is the shrine pet friendly?
In order to preserve and respect the historic and sacred property, pets are not allowed. Those with disabilities may be accompanied by their service animal.
What are the top things to do and see at the Mission and Shrine?
Father Lopez statue
Visitors are greeted by an imposing and inspiring statue of Father Francisco Lopez de Gajales, the priest who celebrated the first Mass. Father Lopez accompanied Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles, commander of the Spanish fleet that arrived here in September 1565. Menendez is the founder of the City of St. Augustine.
Erected in 1965 to celebrate the city’s 400th birthday, this gleaming, stainless steel cross is 208 feet in height – the tallest free-standing cross in the western hemisphere. It marks the location where the Spaniards came ashore to proclaim the site of St. Augustine in the Name of God, Nombre de Dios. Illuminated at night, the Great Cross is one of St. Augustine’s most distinctive and inspiring features.
Chapel of Our Lady of La Leche
In the early 1600’s, Spanish settlers and newly-converted Native Americans in St. Augustine began their devotion to Our Lady of La Leche and here established the first shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in what is now the United States. Restored numerous times over the centuries, today this beautiful chapel reflects the devotion of the citizens of St. Augustine. A canonical coronation on October 10 resulted in the placement of a newly-crowned image of Our Lady of La Leche in the chapel. Sculpted in Northern Italy, the new image depicts the Virgin Mary nursing the infant Jesus.
Opened in conjunction with the October canonical coronation, the Rosary Garden provides a unique opportunity to walk and pray the rosary. Each rosary bead is 16 times larger than those in a typical rosary and are crafted from blue calcite collected in Madagascar. The beads are linked with a stainless steel chain 30 inches above the ground. In addition to a seven-foot crucifix crafted from red cedar trees destroyed in recent hurricanes, the centerpiece of the garden is a coquina grotto with an image of Our Lady of La Leche.
A Special Event
Each September, a colorful and inspirational reenactment of the founding of St. Augustine takes place at the Mission and Shrine. This Saturday event features the arrival of Pedro Menendez aboard a detailed re-creation of a 16th century Spanish boat.
Dozens of authentically clad historical interpreters portray Spanish soldiers and Native Americans who greet St. Augustine’s founder. Menendez then delivers a stirring proclamation of the creation of the city. A festive procession then goes next door to the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park where the nation’s First Thanksgiving is celebrated.