Walk Where They Walked: Make a Pilgrimage

Doctrina of Tolomato

The doctrina of Tolomato seems to have been the traditional headquarters of the Guale chiefdom. Fray Pedro de Corpa was assigned to this chiefdom and it was here that he ministered and died.

The mission of Tolomato has never been located. Speculation places it along the Sapelo River (Pine Harbor Archaeological Site); near Darien, Georgia; at the Harris Neck Archaeological Site; or near Sutherland's Bluff (Townsend, Georgia).

After the church, friar's residence, and remaining buildings were burned in 1597, the site was not permanently resettled and the town never regained its prominent political status within the Guale tribes.

Must See

The monument to the Five Friars of Georgia, created by internationally renowned artist Timothy Schmalz, is located at Nativity of Our Lady Church (1000 North Way) in Darien.

Bishop Stephen D. Parkes addresses the crowd at the blessing and dedication of the Martyrs' monument.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th bishops of Savannah at the blessing and dedication of the Martyrs' monument.

Thought to have been located near Darien or Townsend, Georgia

Doctrina of Asao

The doctrina at Asao was established in 1595, with Friar Francisco de Veráscola assigned as the mission's first friar. The entire village of Asao was found intact after the friar's murder; in retaliation, the Spanish burned it to the ground. After a short period of abandonment, the mission is thought to have been rebuilt close to its original location and dedicated as Santo Domingo de Asao in 1601. Like Tolomato and Tupiqui, the missions of Asao (Asao and Talaje) have not been found. Speculation places them at the mouth of the Altamaha River, at the southern tip of St. Simons Island (and renamed San Buenaventura de Guadalququini), or at Fort King George in Darien.

Must See

Fort King George (302 McIntosh Road, Darien): Using old records and drawings, this 18th century frontier fortification on the Altamaha River has been reconstructed for public tours. Structures include a blockhouse, officers' quarters, barracks, a guardhouse, moat and palisades. A museum and film cover the Guale Indians, the Santo Domingo de Talaje mission, Fort King George, the Scots of Darien, and 19th century sawmilling when Darien became a major seaport. In addition to the many fort buildings, remains of three sawmills and tabby ruins are still visible. There is also a recreation of a Guale roundhouse on the grounds.

This historic site is highly recommended for anyone wanting to experience what village life might have been like for the native Guale and the missionaries.

Visit the Official Website

WATCH: The Reconstruction of Ft. King George

Must See

In 1992, St. William Church (2300 Frederica Road) in St. Simons was chosen by the Diocese of Savannah to provide a permanent home for the Pilgrim Cross, celebrating 500 years of evangelization in the Americas. With the help of the Knights of Columbus, the five-foot high cross first traveled from parish to parish throughout the Diocese (from September 14, 1991 – September 14, 1992). The cross is a replica of the one that Pope St. John Paul II brought to Santo Domingo on a pastoral visit in 1984, and is similar to one implanted by some of the earliest missionaries to the Western Hemisphere around 1514. The Pilgrim Cross rests in a specially-designed shrine on the grounds of the parish.
Possibly located at the mouth of the Altamaha River, the southern tip of St. Simons Island, or at Fort King George

Doctrina of Talapo and the Tulufina Chiefdom

The doctrina of Talapo was the mission station of Friar Francisco de Avila. We know that Friar Avila's first missionary post in 1595 was Tulufina and it is unclear when he came to Talapo. While it has not been found by archaeologists, it is thought to have been located at Harris Neck.

The village of Tulufina is thought to have been located at Seven-Mile Bend (Richmond Hill) or Redbird Creek.

Must See

The Martha-Mary Chapel (10550 Ford Avenue) in Richmond Hill was built by automobile magnate Henry Ford and his wife Clara in 1937 and named in honor of their mothers. (A wooden plaque with this name still proudly hangs to the right of the altar.) The chapel was used daily by students of the adjacent Ways Station school. On Sundays the chapel was used for community worship services, led by the people.

After Henry and Clara passed away, the Ford Foundation sold the majority of their land holdings to the International Paper Company and the chapel ceased to be used.

On September 16, 1951, Bishop Francis E. Hyland arranged for Mass to be offered each Sunday at the Courthouse in Ways Station; 20 people attended the first Mass. At the time, the community was known as the Mission of St. Joseph. A few years later, Bishop Hyland arranged for the Martha-Mary Chapel to become the property of the Diocese of Savannah. The newly renovated mission chapel of St. Anne, Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was dedicated on June 13, 1955 with only five registered families and a few Catholic soldiers from Hinesville.

On November 1, 1987, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard raised the mission to the status of a parish.

Possibly located at Harris Neck (Talapo) and Richmond Hill or Redbird Creek (Tulufina)

Doctrina of Guale

The doctrina of Guale (Santa Catalina de Guale mission) is the only mission to have been located by archaeologists, rediscovered by Dr. David Hurst Thomas in the 1980s. The archaeological digs exposed the footprints of the mission church, the friary, and a kitchen. Today, a stand of palm trees mark the outline of the original mission church and Mass is occasionally celebrated at the site. Threatened by lightning-induced wildfires in 2022, the palms were – perhaps miraculously! – left untouched by the flames.

Friars Miguel de Añon and Antonio de Badajoz were stationed at the Guale mission shortly before the 1597 Uprising and were martyred there on September 16 or 17. The mission was rebuilt in the early 1600s, but English slave raids beginning in 1670 initiated its decline. Though defended against a final attack in 1680, the island was eventually abandoned by the Spanish and Christian Guale.

Must See

Designated a National Historic Landmark, St. Catherines Island is privately owned and maintained by the St. Catherines Island Foundation. Because it is an active archaeological and ecological research site, public access to the interior of the island is prohibited.
St. Catherine's Island

Doctrina of Tupiqui

Friar Blas Rodríguez was assigned to the mission at Tupiqui after the 1595 agreement with the Guale chiefdom, having arrived in Spanish Florida five years earlier. Tupiqui was believed to be a twin administrative center with the town of Espogache, with jurisdiction that included Sapelo Island and the adjacent mainland. The entire village was discovered burned after the 1597 Uprising. The mission has not been located by archaeologists, but speculation places it on the mainland opposite the island town of Sapala and north of present-day Eulonia.

The mission was relocated to Sapelo Island around 1674 and renamed Santa Clara de Tupiqui. It was the last of the mainland Guale missions to relocate onto the barrier islands.

Must See

Sapelo Island is managed by the state of Georgia and is the fourth largest of the coastal islands between the Savannah and St. Marys rivers. Accessible only by ferry, Sapelo is open to the public, but access to the island is restricted to pre-registered visitors only.

Sapelo is home to Hog Hammock, a community of ~70 full-time residents, many of whom are descended from the antebellum slaves of Sapelo's plantations. Part of the official Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, Hog Hammock was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Possibly located north of present-day Eulonia

Historical Markers

Please note that some of these markers have been moved or disused. We include them here because of the historical information they contain.
Contact Information

Credits/External Links
The First Georgia Missions: Our Southern Catholic Heritage, Dr. Paul Thigpen and Katherine Ragan. Illustrations by Pamela Gardner, based on the retablo by Dan Nichols. This retablo is part of the parish patrimony of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in Jasper, Georgia

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