Front Cover
 Title Page

Group Title: Pedro Martinez : S.J. martyr of Florida 1566, Jesuit protomartyr of the New world
Title: Pedro Martinez
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00055636/00001
 Material Information
Title: Pedro Martinez S. J. martyr of Florida 1565, Jesuit protomartyr of the New world
Physical Description: 16 p. : ; 21cm.
Language: English
Creator: Kenny, Michael
Publisher: Abbey press
Place of Publication: St. Leo Fla
Publication Date: 1939
Subject: History -- Florida -- To 1565   ( lcsh )
Statement of Responsibility: by Michael Kenny.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00055636
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000121422
oclc - 01514873
notis - AAN7346

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Full Text

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Pedro Martinez, S. J.
Martyr of Florida, 1566

Jesuit Protomartyr of the New World

Rev. Michael Kenny, S. J.

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J. Nunan. V. G.
Censor Librorum


i P. Barry,
Episcopus Sti. Augustini

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S. S. q 5


We are very grateful to Fr. M. Kenny, the learned
author of the Romance of the Floridas, for putting the
crown on his work and giving us in this pamphlet, the
result of his own personal investigation, the last word
on the tragic circumstances which led to the heroic death
of Pedro Martinez, the first Jesuit Martyr who shed his
blood for Christ in bringing the Christian message of
Salvation to the aborigines of the New World.
Not satisfied with the findings of other historians
with regard to the exact location where the death took
place, with the true instinct of the historian, by collect-
ing the various accounts from original, independent
sources, and by surveying the coastal regions North of
the St. John's River in person, an advantage which the
other historians did not have, he has demonstrated for
S all time that the place is none other than the shore at
the foot of Mt. Cornelia on the present St. George Island
in Florida.
All Floridians, without distinction of creed aught
- to be grateful to the distinguished author for thus vin-
dicating for the State of Florida another Sacred Spot
S connected with its pioneer history.
We fully make our own the hope expressed by Fr.
Kenny that the State authorities in cooperation with the
various Historical Societies take cognizance of this recent
remarkable discovery so that at some future time a
worthy monument may be erected to enshrine for future
S generations the memory the "Athlete of Christ" a true
Christian hero, Don Pedro Martinez, the first of that

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heroic band of the Sons of St. Ignatius who gave his
life for Christ.
It is our expressed desire also that the Catholic
Societies in Jacksonville place a suitable temporary mark-
er with appropriate inscription on the sacred spot, and
that the whole Diocese unite and persevere in praying
that Fr. Pedro Martinez may some day by the favor of
the Holy See, be enrolled among the White Robed Com-
pany of Martyrs.
P. Barry,
Bishop of St. Augustine.



The first martyr to the Faith on our eastern shores
and the first Jesuit martyr of both Americas was Pedro
Martinez, S.J., who, crucifix in hand, was clubbed to
death by the Timuquan Indians on Fort George Island
in the present Florida State, October 6, 1566. Though
cut off in his thirty-third year, he had shown such com-
bination of physical and mental power and consuming
zeal and saintly charm, that his friends and brethren
foresaw in him the coming Xavier of the West. Apart
from his primacy of martyrdom on our shores and his
saintly heroism, the character of Father Martinez pre-
sents traits of natural and supernatural lovableness that
should appeal to the heart of Catholic America.
Born October 26, 1533, of good family in Teruel of
Aragon, his uncle being Regent of that Kingdom, Pedro
Martinez completed his studies at Valencia, then a re-
nowned university, where he won first honors in Phil-
osophy and qualified at twenty for the Mastership of
Arts. He also held mastery in the then extra-curricular
activity of swordplay, in which his notoriety is thus re-
corded: "A youth of quick wit but quicker hand, there
was rarely a duel in the city in which Martinez was not
principal, second, or promoter." Though not irreligious,
Pedro showed bitter animosity toward the Jesuits re-
recently established in Valencia, because they had at-

Pedro Martinez, S J., Martyr of Florida

tracted some of his best student friends; and once he
accompanied four student applicants to their House in
order to turn the Jesuits into ridicule, and thus swerve
his friends from their purpose. While Father Jerome
Nadal, the saintly superior, was interviewing the appli-
cants, Pedro was scrutinizing the Fathers and Brothers
as they passed, and, reacting suddenly to the impressions
of spirituality and sincerity they induced, he asked
Father Nadal for instant admission to the Society.
Though the others were rejected, Martinez was told to
think it over in prayer and return for further consider-
ation the eighth day thereafter.
Feeling slighted at not receiving immediate accept-
ance, Pedro on the eighth morning chose instead to keep
a duel engagement previously set; but the parties failed
to arrive, and then the angry duelist remembered his ap-
pointment with Father Nadal. Hastening to his rooms
and bundling his belongings on his shoulders, he speeded
to the Jesuit residence and told the Fathers he was there
to stay. Informed that, even were he fit, they had in their
poverty neither food for him nor sleeping place, he said
he came not to eat nor to sleep, but to work. He stayed
there the day perforce, and on examination proving of
good mind, morals and extraction, he was given four
months probation in garden and kitchen, and was finally
admitted to the Order October 2, 1553. Versatile in high
talents and capacity and exemplary in discipline,-except
that he once left ranks to stop a bull fight singlehanded,
-he was given the extraordinary function for a Scholas-
tic of Minister and preacher as well as teacher and stu-
dent, and he so discharged these duties that in five years
he was promoted to the Priesthood, long ahead of the
regular period. Appointed Chaplain forthwith to the
Argel Expedition against the Moors, his fearless and de-

Pedro Martine, S. J., Martyr of Florida

voted services to the sick and wounded won the only
honors of that disastrous enterprise.
Eminently efficient in pulpit and confessional and
in hospital and pastoral work as well as in college and
classroom, Father Martinez also discharged the offices
of Minister and Rector in various languishing colleges
so successfully that the Father Visitor pronounced him,
"of great virtue, industry and bodily vigor and gifted
with the art of governing". Though equally at home and
effective with the loftiest and lowliest, the learned and
unlearned, he wrote the Father General,.Saint Francis
Borgia, that his lack of the full Jesuit theological train-
ing brought perils to his ministry, "and if I go to hell,
the Society will not get me out". In response, he got a
two months period with the Brothers in Alcala's kitchen
and workshops, and having become an expert artisan and
cook, he completed his theological course at Salamanca
University, which soon elected him head of its Depart-
ment of Oratory.
Appointed Rector of Valladolid, he had no sooner set
that university's affairs on a sound basis than he was
transferred to the rectorship of Monterey for like pur-
pose, and the message found him teaching catechism to
the children on the streets, as was his wont, assisted by
the young nobility, who rang the bell for these assem-
blies. At Monterey the appointment reached him that he
had been longing and begging for since his entrance, to
repair forthwith to the Florida Missions, and it filled his
heart with delight. Though in every house he had "built
up the spiritual edifice from the foundation" as well as
the material, he was persistently imploring the Father
General to gratify his longings for the foreign missions.
He submitted his qualifications of great bodily health
and vigor, his study of all heresies and doctrine, his
facility for languages, but above all his irresistible long-

Pedro'Martinez, S. J., Martyr of Florida

ing to return the strength and powers God gave him by
bringing the distant heathen to His fold and, if God
pleased, by laying down his life.
Saint Francis Borgia had put him first on the list
of those eligible for the West Indies Mission, and now
to his confirming word of blessing and appointment
Martinez replies: "May the Eternal Father with His
power, the Divine Son with His wisdom, the Holy Spirit
with His love requite you for this favor. No more will
I regard myself as your son, but as your bondsman, as
I go forth with new spirit to spend my life and shed my
blood in this undertaking."
Saint Francis had made the appointments for the
previous year, 1565, by request of Governor Menendez
before his departure for the conquest and settlement of
Florida, a province then reaching west to the Mississippi
and north to the Saint Lawrence. Owing to unhappy mis-
understandings of orders by their Provincial Superiors
the Menendez fleet of 1565 had to sail without the
promised Jesuits, and they did not assist in the found-
ing of Saint Augustine. For the same reasons they
were not ready to sail with the Florida fleet of April
1566, which was equipped with pilots acquainted with
the Florida coast; and the Jesuit band had to wait until
June for a fleet sailing to Mexico which had no such
equipment. Meanwhile Father Martinez busied himself
with the sailors aboard and ashore, preaching and cate-
chising and hearing confessions day and night at the
docks and in the neighboring churches, and with such
effect that every member of the entire fleet confessed
and received Communion for the voyage.
Though his two companions, the saintly Father John
Rogel and Francisco Villareal, the pick of Spanish lay-
brothers, were older than he, Father Martinez then in
his thirty-third year was, much to his grief, appointed
Superior. He was comforted, however, by receiving

Pedro Martinez, S. J., Martyr of Florida

through St. Francis the fulness of reserved powers and
plenary faculties for his mission from Pope St. Pius V,
and the precious special blessings of both these saintly
heads, of the Catholic Church and of his own Society
of Jesus.
Father Rogel records admiringly how when the fleet
set sail Father Pedro passed from ship to ship singing
the catechism and prayers with the sailors in rhymes of
his own making, even in Flemish for the many seamen
from the Spanish Netherlands, whose language he readily
mastered. By sundry other such holy and happy devices
he so won all hearts to his will that the Admiral said the
Father had wrought the miracle of transforming his
sailors into saints. When they reached the Canaries,
July 7, Father Martinez spent a five days stay preaching
and catechising in church and chapel and on the streets
and assisting Father Rogel in the crowded confessionals.
The Florida ship parted from the Mexican fleet near
Puerto Rico August 11, and having no pilots acquainted
with the coast, they skirted the Florida shores in search
of Santa Elena, as previously directed, at about latitrde
32'. Sailing up and down for a few days and driven out
to sea by a hurricane, at length the captain ordered a
boat ashore to make inquiry of the natives; but all re-
fused the risk unless Father Martinez accompanied them.
Then he sprang into the boat with two Spaniards and
six Flemish seamen; and on September 14, the feast of
the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, landed at Tecatacuru,
now Cumberland Island, Georgia, the first missionary
and martyr to set foot on our Eastern shores. That night
a storm blew the ship out to sea, never to return.
Waiting several days in hunger and hardship, Father
Martinez sustained the courage of his men by the con-
tagion of his own faith and cheery endurance. Then,
holding aloft a cross he attached to a spear-shaft, he led

Pedro;Maninez,'S. J., Martyr of Florida

them unwearingly by boat and ashore in search of the
natives, and when he found their wigwams, after rowing
up a neighboring river, his winning personality induced
them to provide food and friendly assistance and to direct
him southward to the Fort of the Spaniards. From camp
to camp they made their way south, and all the chiefs
proved friendly, having been previously conciliated by
Governor Menendez. Passing west to Talbot Island,
probably by inland waterway, they reached Alimacani,
now Fort George, whose tribesmen were tributary to
Saturiba, the friend of the Huguenots and bitter enemy
of the Spanish Christians. There their fortune changed.
Nearing the present Mount Cornelia and seeing
some Indians fishing by its shore, the Flemings, against
Father Martinez' wishes, drew the boat to land to get
them fish and went ashore among the natives. One of
these ran to the village, and Flores, a Spanish soldier de-
voted to Father Martinez, suspecting hostile intent,
climbed the hill to reconnoiter. Finding on his return
some thirty Indians surrounding the boat, he jumped in-
to the skiff and, waving his sword at the Indians, urged
Father Martinez to row away at once. This they could
have done; but the good Father would not abandon the
Flemings who had gone towards the village, and he bade
Flores to recall them. This brave loyalty to his own
proved his death warrant.
Crowding closer as the Flemings were approaching
the skiff the Indians seized Father Martinez from behind,
while others dragged a Spaniard and two Flemings to
the bank and beat them to death. They had also seized
Flores, but though he broke their hold and threw them
overboard, repeated flights of arrows left him helpless
to give aid as he beheld his beloved Father Martinez
dragged ashore and mercilessly done to death. He saw
the brave Father, half strangled as he was, raise his

Pedro Martine, S. J., Martyr of lorida

hands to Heaven and fall upon his knees. Then, "while
his hands were clasping the crucifix on his breast and
one could see that he was recommending himself to God,
they struck him on the head with a heavy club and took
away his life. Surely," adds Flores, "he went straight
to Heaven, where please God, I hope again to meet him"
-a prayer still impelled by the reading of his narrative.
It was October 6, 1566, twenty days short of his thirty-
third year, that Father Pedro Martinez gave the Master
he so passionately loved the witness of his life.
The Indians had slain two others in the escaping
boat with a flight of arrows and severely wounded Flores
and the two Flemish survivors. These, however, succeed-
ed in pushing off the boat, and, having struggled south-
ward through the night, they were found semi-lifeless in
their skiff next morning by Menendez' men at the mouth
of Saint John's River. It is through them we have re-
ceived details of the event in three separate narratives:
one by Flores, the Spanish survivor, one by Father Rogel,
who received it from the Flemings, and one by Governor
Menendez, who had interviewed all the survivors. Father
Rogel and Governor Menendez wrote their accounts to Fa-
ther Avalleneda, S.J., Provincial of Andalusia, the same
month of October, 1566, and Flores related his to Don
Lopez de Almazan, also a devoted friend of Father Mar-
tinez, who forwarded the complete details to Saint Fran-
cis Borgia, December 1, 1566. The three accounts agree
in all essentials, and practically in all details, except in
the distance of the site of the martyrdom from Saint
John's River. This the wounded Flores estimated at five
leagues; but the one league estimate of Menendez, who
alone knew the localities, is otherwise corroborated in
the Flores narrative.
This determination of the site is at variance with
that of Father Tanner, S.J., and of Gilmary Shea and

Pedro Martinez, S J., Martyr of Florida

Woodbury Lowery and others who, following Tanner,
placed it in Tacatacuru or Cumberland Island, Georgia,
on which he had landed. But we have the advantage of
the original records written at the time by the witnesses,
and these make it certain that the southward traveling
of Father Martinez and companions in their skiff during
the twenty-two days his footsteps hallowed our soil
brought him from Georgia to Florida at the precise spot
we have designated. Moreover, the account of Father
Rogel, S.J., received from the Flemish survivors soon af-
ter the event, coincides in all essentials and in most de-
tails with the narrative of Flores. Both related that "a
hill" rose up where the Flemings turned the boat to land,
and that the shore at the base of this hill was the scene
of the martyrdom. Now there is but one hill on all that
coast, the present Mount Cornelia, which rises abruptly
from the shore some 300 feet, about three miles north
of the mouth of Saint John's River, precisely the dis-
tance which Governor Menendez had set. It is the only
spot in the coast line on which both disparate evidences
coincide, "a hill" rising "about a league" north of the
There is also evidence of an Indian village site back
of the hill, and adjoining it there is a large burial mound
abounding in diverse Indian remains. It has significance
that the grounds back of Mount Cornelia form now the
golf course of the Ribault Club, dedicated to Jacques Ri-
bault, the Huguenot pirate captain who came to Saint
John's River to wrest Florida from Spain. He had
been defeated and executed with his followers by Menen-
dez just a year before Father Martinez hallowed its
shore with holier blood. It was the courteous manager
of the Ribault Club, Mr. Deniffe, who led us through the
tangled areas of the Indian burial mound and down the
steep tree-covered hill to the now waterless shores at its

Pedro Martinez, S. J., Martyr of Florida

base. The sea had receded within recent years making
new conformations, and leaving but a pool at the foot
of the hill which was still a favorite fishing place until
the Ribault Club had it drained and cleared. One can
now walk dry-shod where Father Martinez' skiff was
borne by the waters, as well as on the bank where he
offered up his life for God's love. Looking up at the
tree-crowned hill we thought it was to this martyr hero it
should be dedicated rather than to the Huguenot adven-
turer, and we hope that Florida will soon signalize this
first Christian martyrdom on its eastern coast by naming
its one existent witness Mount Martinez, or, perhaps more
expressively, Mount Martyr.
His techincal title to martyrdom is not as clear as
that of his eight Jesuit brothers, Fathers Segura and
Quiros and companions, who were slain five years later
by the Ajacan Indians in Virginia, avowedly because of
their Christian teachings. But hatred of the Faith also
motivated, at least in part, the slaying of Father Mar-
tinez. It is true that the tribesmen of Alimacani (the
Spanish San Juan and present Fort George) were tribu-
taries of Saturiba who had supported the Huguenots and
was still hostile to the Spanish. But these, as well as
the tribes that had shown such friendliness to Father
Martinez on his way, were well aware that the implanting
of the Christian religion was the primary purpose of the
Spaniards. Menendez had proclaimed the Catholic Faith
to the neighboring tribes by interpreters and outlined its
essential truths in his every address. He had Crosses
erected and had posted youths and soldiers in each tribe
to explain the catechism and prayer, and had told their
chiefs that God's own teachers were coming soon to re-
place their false and evil ways with the law and worship
of the one true God.
Moreover, a Huguenot refugee, Pierre Brom, had

Pedro Martinez, S. J., Martyr of Florida

been inflaming this tribe against the religion of the
Spaniards. Hence this hatred must have entered strong-
ly into the slaying of a Spanish leader robed as the priest
of their religion and carrying the Crucifix, its dis-
tinguishing symbol. That Father Martinez could have
escaped, but bravely refused at the risk of his life to
abandon the Flemings, is attested by all witnesses; and
his eager desire to lay down his life for God and Chris-
tian truth is manifest in his every letter to Rome beg-
ging for that privilege. That he did courageously offer
up his life for the Christ Whose Crucifix he clasped is
also manifest; and this has been held the "very essence
of martyrdom". When the general hatred excited in
these murderers towards the holders and promoters of the
Spanish religion is superadded, it would seem that
Father Pedro Martinez may be justly accorded full title
to the martyr's crown.
The records of his whole Jesuit life would, apart
from its ending, assign him the heroicity of canonical
requirements. In fact all the testimonies regarding him
from within and without the Order would indicate heroic
virtue. Once he had decided to leave the world for God's
service he devoted the whole strength of his generous
heart and strong individuality to qualify himself in soul
and body for the perfect following of Christ in the So-
ciety of Jesus. The first report of him to Rome after
his entrance records that "alone he has made further ad-
vance and rendered more notable service than all the
others, which happens when the grace of God is united
with the gifts of nature". He gave himself so strenuously
to penance in the novitiate that he was ordered to limit
his scourging to half an hour, and despite his incessant

Pedro Martinez, S. J., Martyr of Florida

labors thereafter he so used hairshirt and scourge that
he had to be restrained by obedience.
The fact that he was so rapidly promoted to the
Priesthood and selected for the most important works and
offices of the Society at an exceptionally early age is
proof of the "great virtue" that the official reports re-
peatedly ascribe to him. Father Rogel, his senior, refers
to Father Martinez in his-diary as "The blessed Father",
and this is a witness who was also revered as a saint.
The abundant records show that an all-consuming love
and zeal impressed the distinctive saintliness of his
strong personality irresistibly upon all, and their testi-
monies ratify the judgment of Saint Francis Borgia and
of Governor Menendez that Father Pedro Martinez was
both "great and good". The distinguished Governor, who
knew him personally and highly revered him, said,
"Father Martinez alone could have accomplished more
good than all the soldiers in Florida." Others lamented
the loss of an apostle who was bringing the apostolic
zeal and saintly power and promise of Saint Francis
Xavier to the Indians of the West, and "all were over-
whelmed with grief when they heard Father Pedro Mar-
tinez had been slain". They were consoled, however, as
was Saint Francis Borgia in his tribute to "the good
Father Martinez", by their assurance with Flores that
"he had gone straight to Heaven".

The complete story of Father Martinez, as of our
other early martyrs and missionaries and of the Catholic
founders of our American civilization, will be found in
"The Romance of the Floridas: The Finding and the
Founding", by Michael Kenny, S.J., Bruce Publishing
Co., Milwaukee. The letters bearing on Father Martinez,
as well as other relevant documents, are copied from the

Pedro Martinez, S. J., Martyr of Florida

CIETATIS JESU and of the Spanish Jesuit Assistancy,
from "The Archives of the Indies" and the "Jesuits in
Florida" by Brother Carrera, S.J. These are cited more
fully with exact reference in "The Romance of the

To obtain special favors through the intercession of
Father Martinez and to forward the process of his
canonization, the following prayer is recommended:

0 Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom, through con-
suming love of Thy Sacred Person, Father Pedro
Martinez gladly sacrificed his life for the saving of
Thy children of the Floridas, deign to make known
by granting the favor we ask, that his works and
sacrifice were pleasing to Thee and that he may be
exalted to the honors of Thy Altars. Amen.


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