Witnesses to the Truth: Documentary Sources Recounting the Martyrdom

The Primary Sources


There are three principal sources of information recounting the slaying of the Five Franciscan Friars martyred in Georgia (then part of the Spanish colony of La Florida) in September 1597.


These sources are:

A

A document (herein referred to as PM): Proceso sobre Ia muerte de Ios religiosos en Ia provincia de Guale y sentencia pronunciada contra Lucas, indio, San Agustin, júlio de 1598 (AGI, Patronato, 19).

Edited and integrally published in Missionalia Hispanica, 1955, Num. 35, pp. 327-40, it is part of the documentary appendix to the study "Mártires Franciscanos de Georgia," by Ignacio Omaechevarría, O.F.M., which appeared in the preceding number of the same review, Num. 34, pp. 5-93.

The same proceso or información de oficio – with a number of variations, some significant but most merely orthographic – is also found in Vol. II of Óre's Relación Historica de La Florida, pp. 13-23, edited by Atanasio López, O.F.M. (Madrid, 1933). In that edition the depository of the document is indicated as AIS, Patronato, 1-1-1/19.

B

An epic poem (herein referred to as LF): La Florida, by Fray Alonso Gregorio de Escobedo.1

Written probably between 1606 and 1609, this extended poem exists in a manuscript (MS 187) preserved in the rare-book section of the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, Spain. The manuscript is a bound volume, the folios of which measure 18 x 11 ems. Catalogued as composed of 449 folios, there are in fact some significant misnumberings of the folios: there are no folios corresponding to the numbers 165 to 176, 261, and 292 to 303, for a total of twenty-five numbers which are missing, making a true total of 424 folios. In our citations, we shall however use the folio-number that appears on the respective page. The section dealing with the Revolt of 1597 and the slaying of the friars extends from folio 149r to 161v. Though never published in its entirety, considerable excerpts of the work may be found in various publications, of which the following are especially to be noted:

a) the re-edition of Óre's Relación, published under the title Relación Historica de La Florida Escrita en el Siglo XVII, by Atanasio López, O.F.M. (Madrid, Vol. I, I 931, pp. 26-35).

b) "Estado de la Orden Franciscana y sus Misiones," by José Pou y Martí, O.F.M. (AIA, tomo 27 (1927), pp. 38-92, passim).

c) Experiencia Misionera en La Florida, by Gregory Joseph Keegan, M.M., and Leandro Torma Sanz (Madrid, 1957), passim throughout the volume.

d) Sangre Vizcaína en los Pantanos de La Florida, by Ignacio Omaechevarría, O.F.M. (Vitoria, Spain, 1948), passim throughout the volume.

A partial prose-translation of this work into English was published under the title: Pirates, Indians and Spaniards: Father Escobedo's La Florida, by James W. Covington and A F. Falcones (St. Petersburg, Fl., 1963). The section treating the martyrdom is to be found on pages 27 to 34.

C

An extended history of the Franciscan Mission in la Florida during the first century of its existence (herein referred to as RM): Relación tie los Mártires que a avid en las Provincias de La Florida, by Luys Hieronymo de Óre, Lector de Teologia y Comisário de la Provincia de Santa Elena de La Florida e Isla de Cuba.

This work was published in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, the date of the original edition assigned by authorities varying from 1604 to 1620. No copies of the first edition are known to exist. A modern re-edition, with an extensive prologue and notes was published by Atanasio López, O.F.M., under the title Relación Histórica de La Florida escrita en el Siglo XVII por el P. Fr. Jerónimo de Óre (Madrid, Vol. I, 1931; Vol. II, 1933).

The Relación treats of the period from the discovery of La Florida in 1513 by Ponce de Leon and extends to the first canonical chapter of the Franciscan Province of Santa Elena celebrated on Zapata (Sapelo) Island in mid-December, 1616. In the López edition (that used as the basis for the present study) the account of the martyrdom of the five friars is found on pages 86 to 93 and page 103 of Vol. I, with one document illustrating the event in Vol. II, pp. 13-23. A partial translation into English, embodying only the section relating to the Revolt and Martyrdom, with extensive notes, a biographical study of the author and bibliographical comments referring to the work itself, was edited by Maynard Geiger, O.F.M., and published as No. 18 of the "Franciscan Studies" series under the title The Martyrs of Florida (New York: Joseph F. Wagner, 1936)."

CREDIT: REPORTATIO SUPER MARTYRIO SERVORUM DEi PETRI DE CORPA ET SOCIORUM EJUS ANNO DOMINI 1597 IN FLORIDA OCCISORUM (Editio Tertia "Positionis", 7 Maii 2002)
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REPORTATIO SUPER MARTYRIO SERVORUM DEi PETRI DE CORPA ET SOCIORUM EJUS ANNO DOMINI 1597 IN FLORIDA OCCISORUM (Editio Tertia "Positionis", 7 Maii 2002)
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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