OF THE STATE ARSENAL
By Gay Cooper
March 21, 1962
To Mrs. Doris Wiles, the librarian of the Historical
Society Library without whose help the research for this
paper could never have been done.
And especially to my father, Brig. Gen. Ralph Cooper,
Jr., who has kindled my interest in the State Arsenal for
so many years and who is now and always will be a part of
the Arsenal's great history.
Looking at the State Arsenal today few would know
how steeped in history this historical building actually
is. What used to be known as the Franciscan Monastery
"Immaculate Conception" and later on as the St. Francis
Barracks can be traced back to the very beginnings of
St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.
As St. Augustine began, so a monastery was begun
to help control the barbarous Indians and convert them
to Christianity. This was done by missionaries and the
friars of the Franciscan Order.
As we turn back the leaves of history, we see the
arrival of Pedro Menendez, and the arrival of the first
permanent settlement in the United States, from whence
the Franciscan Monastery began.
I The First Spanish Period 1565 1763
A. The Arrival of Pedro Menendez
1. The first Mass in St. Augustine
2. The settlement of St. Augustine
B. The Arrival of the Missionaries
1. The Jesuits (1568)
a. The Jesuit missionaries fail in Florida
2. The Franciscans (1577)
a. St. Francis of Assisi
1) St. Francis' Mission
b. The Franciscan system in Florida
1) The head of the Franciscan system
2) Their services performed
3) Their pledge to poverty
c. The arrival of the missionaries in Florida
d. The arrival of the first missionaries in
C. The Franciscan Monastery in St. Augustine (1588)
1. The construction of
2. The arrival of more friars in St. Augustine
D. Governor Domingo Martinez de Avendano in Florida
1. His services performed
2. His death
3. Number of converted Indians (1595)
E. Report of Governor Canzo (1597)
F. The massacre of the missionaries by the Indians
1. Document concerning the massacre
2. The questioning of the Indians
a. Why missionary murdered
3. The punishment of the crime
4. The treatment of Father Francisco de Avila
G. Father Richard Artur made superior of the convent
1. His duties
H. The Franciscan Monastery burned (1599)
I. The restoration of the Monastery
1. St. Augustine in a state of neglect
a. The guardian of the convent made parish
priest of the fort
2. The monastery finished
J. The Great Capitular House (1610)
1. Father Francis Pareja
2. Franciscans make progress with the Indians
3. The baptism of the Cacique of Timucua
4. The visit of Father Louis Jerome de Ore
5. St. Augustine's zealous missionary
6. King makes provisions for the monastery
7. The monastery flourishes
K. The St. Elena Province
L. Trouble with the Indians (1657)
M. The visit of Bishop Gabriel Deaz Vara Calderon
N. The Franciscan Monastery destroyed (1702)
1. Set afire during Spanish Succession
a. The exquisite library destroyed
0. The rebuilding of the monastery
1, The trouble concerning the rebuilding
a. The cost of
b. The labor concerning the rebuilding
2. The completion of the monastery (1755)
a. The fort completed about the same time
The British Regime 1763 1783
A. The Treaty of 1763
1. The evacuation of the friars
B. The selling of the Church property
1. The cost of
a. Bought by John Gordon
2. The property confiscated by the British
C. The monastery transferred to Barracks
D. St. Augustine designated as a military station
1. More barracks needed
E. New barracks added on the Church and monastery
1. The delayed action
2. The barracks completed
F. More new barracks constructed
1. Troops move in to new barracks
2. Its outstanding medical record
G. St. Francis Barracks still used for military
The Second Spanish Period 1783 1821
A. The appeal to the crown to turn Barracks back
into a monastery
1. Matter considered by King
2. Reply of Governor Zespedes
a. Governor doesn't approve
B. The arrival of the Franciscans
1. The last of the Franciscans
C. Wooden barracks destroyed by fire (1792)
D. Troops move back into St. Francis Barracks
IV. The Change of Flags 1821
A. First use of Barracks by United States as a Jail
Remarks from Forbes
B. Barracks return to its military uses (1832)
1. Military post of Light Artillery (1838)
2. Its change of appearance
C. Barracks during the Seminole War
D. Civil War
1. Barracks occupied by Federal Troops
E. Barracks remodeled by War Department (1867)
1. Description of
2. First time the title "St. Francis Barracks"
F. Barracks abandoned by U. S. Army (1900)
G. Barracks used as abode for Sisters and orphans
of the Convent
H. Barracks leased to State of Florida for State
Military Headquarters (1907)
1. Cost of
I. Headquarters gutted by fire (1915)
J. Restoration of military headquarters for National
1. Cost of
2. Architect and director ofrestoration
3. Resolution concerning the Arsenal
4. Description of Arsenal after restoration
K, National Guard mobilizes (1940)
L. World War II
1. Arsenal occupied by Selective Service
M. The Arsenal brought up to date
1. The remodeling of
2. Its appearance today
Table of Contents
The First Spanish Period ................................ 1
The British Regime ..................................... 27
The Second Spanish Period ............................... 34
The Change of Flags .*.......................... ........ 37
THE HISTORY OF THE STATE ARSENAL
I The First Spanish Period
On the day of September 6, 1565, Pedro Menendez
arrived in the harbor of St. Augustine to plant the first
permanent settlement in the United States. The following
day Menendez stepped ashore amid artillery and blasts of
trumpets. "The priest, Mendoza Grajales, who had landed
the previous day, took a cross and proceeded to meet him,
followed by the soldiers chanting the Te Deum. Menendez
advanced to the cross, which he kissed on bended knee, as
did all who followed him.,"
In this spot the first Mass in St, Augustine was
offered. Thus began the permanent service of the Catholic
Church in the oldest city in the United States, maintained
with only brief interruption for almost 400 years.
Menendez in his contract with the King, March 20,
1565, 2 was bound to bring to Florida ten or twelve
1. John Gilmary Shea, The Catholic Church in Colonial
Days (New York, 1886), p. 136.
2. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," Florida
Historical Quarterly (1928), VII, 215.
Religious of some Order and four Jesuits. St. Francis Borgia,
formerly the Duke of Gandia but now general of the Jesuits,
personally selected ten men to go with Menendez and who were
to bring knowledge of the Savior to the natives. The priests
arrived in 1568 but were treated cruelly and some put to
death. Borgia withdrew the remaining members and sent them
to Mexico where they founded a very flourishing province.
The Jesuits having failed, the mission to convert the
Indians in Florida finally devolved around the sons of
St. Francis was the son of a rich cloth merchant. He
was born at Assisi in Umbria, at which place has become the
goal of a new race of pilgrims. Without strife of schism
"God's Poor Little Man" became the means of renewing the
youth of his Church. His mission was to kindle the love of
God in the world and reanimate the life of the spirit in the
hearts of men.5
3. Shea, og. cit.~ p. 150.
4. Shea, The Catholic Church in Colonial Days, p. 151.
5. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," loc. cit.,
Even those who care little about the Order he founded,
and who have scant sympathy for the Church to which he be-
longed, find themselves looking across the ages for his
guidance and invoking his name in grateful remembrance.6
"A royal decree of February 13, 1573, ordered that Fran-
ciscan friars be sent to the Florida colony."7
At the head of the Franciscan system was a commissary
general. He was responsible for recruiting members for
Florida service and finding funds to pay their expenses to
and from this field of labor.8
During their stay in Florida, the Franciscans performed
a multitude of services. They built some of the first
churches, mastered the native tongues, made the first dic-
tionaries based on Indian dialects, gave instructions in
catechism, and acted as the first schoolteachers and "so
7. Father Matthew Connolly, "More Missionaries
Arrive in Florida" The Florida Catholic (April 8, 1960).
8. Verne E. Chatelain, The Defense of Spanish Florida
1565 to 1763 (Washington, D. C: Carnegie Institute of
Washington, 1941), po 24.
developed their program as to become in truth important
leaders in the Spanish provinces governed from St. Augustine."9
There seems to be some dispute over the Franciscans'
pledge to poverty. It was stated in Chatelain's Defenses of
Spanish Florida that unlike other orders which were pledged
to poverty in the service of the Order and supported by
charity, the Franciscans in Florida were included in the
dotacion, and so received a proportional part of the sub-
sidy.11 From other references it was stated that they were
strictly pledged to poverty. But to be able to support them-
selves and the missions in Florida they would almost have to
be included in the subsidy. Because of this their forces
increased and moved gradually to remote parts of Florida.
Even though the Jesuits did fail in Florida they
developed the first mission in St. Augustine. Their mission
program was characterized by self-denial and devotion to
10 Dotacion refers to the number of people living in
St. Augustine at that particular time.
11. Chatelain, loco cit., p. 24.
ideals like the priests in the Southwest and California.12
The first Franciscans to arrive in St. Augustine were
Reverend Alonzo de Reynoso with other priests and lay brothers
towards the end of 1577. There began their first labors
among the Indians at Nombre de Dios and San Sebastian.13
During the first decade, the friars didn't have much
success and their labors were confined to St. Augustine and
Santa Elena. At the time the Franciscans didn't have more
than four missionaries here at one time.14
It has been said that these missionaries were the ad-
vance guard of Spain in North America.15
It was not until 1583 that a really concentrated
effort was made to Christianize the Indians in Florida.16
The Franciscan Monastery in St. Augustine was first
built in 1588. It was rudely constructed of logs as were all
13. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," o. cit.,
14. Connolly, o,. cit.
15. Chastelain, loc. cit., p 24.
16. Connolly, op. cit.
other missions at that time.
The location of it was determined by a royal mandate of
1573: "For the temple of the cathedral, the parish church,
or monastery, building lots shall be so completely isolated
that no building shall be added there except on appertaining
to its commodiousness and ornamentation."17
In 1592, 12 more friars arrived in St. Augustine with
their superior, Fray Jean de Silva and placed themselves
under the charge of Reverend Francis Marron, Guardian of the
Convent which was known as "Immaculate Conception."18
An account of a missionary group that arrived in St.
Augustine in 1587, by one of their number, Father Alonso
Escobedo, is cleverly given in a narrative form:
"Franciscan Fathers, so you have come
From the distant parts of the East
To settle this poor and barren nest
Where the sun's fair face is his.
17. Father Matthew Connolly, "Priest Who Offered First
Parish Mass in U. S. Was Olden St. Augustine's Founding
Pastor," The Florida Catholic (January 6, 1961).
18. The monastery was also called St. Helena
"What humbly now I beg you all
Is to teach these western tribes
Who look upon Satan as a friend,
But their master, God, regard as foe."19
This poet was assigned to the Mission of Nombre de Dios.
There he had the pleasure of baptising one hundred Indians.
"The soil of Florida, though barren, could yet yield fruit
with much effort."20
It is interesting to note that as early as 1589 there
was a 70 year old Negro servant attached to the friary in
In 1594 a new governor was appointed to Florida by the
name of Domingo Martinez de Avendano. At that time Father
Francisco Marron was the superior of the monastery. He spoke
of the new governor's "Christian spirit and practical wisdom"
in the matter concerning religious services and of government
19. Connolly, loc. cit.
21. Father Matthew Connolly, "Mission Founded from St.
Augustine," The Florida Catholic (April 15, 1960)
The governor personally accompanied new missionaries to
their posts in Florida. At each place where Avendano left a
mission, the governor would kneel down and kiss the priest's
"This act of humble reverence on the part of the highest
civil official in the territory had a tremendous effect on
the observant Indians. They regarded the missionaries 'as
gods in the land'"23
Upon the death of Governor Avendano, he was buried in
the chapel of the Franciscan monastery in St. Augustine.
About the time of Avendano's governorship in Florida,
the Franciscans had converted about 1,500 Indians to Christi-
Gonzalo Menendez Canso succeeded Avendano as governor.
In the detailed report to the Spanish government on the
spiritual and temporal affairs in the State of Florida,
Governor Canso stated that "The Franciscans were in a state
of penury, that their friary had only a palm roof, and that
they lacked sufficient vestments for the religious services.
The parish church,25 too, needed a tile roof and other
Like the Jesuits, many Franciscans were also murdered by
the Indians in 1597; Father Francisco de Avila alone being
The following document concerning the massacre is des-
criptive of it and the Franciscans at that time
In the city of St. Augustine Province of
Florida, July 1, 1598, Gonzalo Menendez Canso
Governor and Captain-General of the King of
our Lord, says: That in the Month of October
past of 1597 he was notified of an uprising of
the Indians of the Province of Guale. They had
refused to obey your Majesty and killed the
Religious of the Order of San Francisco sent
out to convert and teach them.... The Governor
ordered me, the secretary that I should go to
the monastery of San Francisco, of this city,
and in his name ask the custodian priest of
said house. Fray Francisco Marron, to give
permission to Fray Francisco de Avila, who
had been sent to t.ach and convert the Indians,
that under the oath which is administered to
the Religious of his Order, he declare how
his companions were killed, what he has seen
25. The parish church was the building in back of the
26. Father Matthew Connolly, "First Irish Priest Arrived
in 1598," The Florida Catholic (April 22, 1960.)
and heard, and the causes that have moved
them to commit such a crime as the killing of
priests.... The notary public went to the
Monastery of San Francisco of this city, read
and showed the degree above to Fray Francisco
de Avila who was one of the friars sent out to
teach and convert in the Peninsula of Guale,
and as the Lord, Our God, had seen proper to
deliver him from being killed by the Indians,
as his companions had been, and as a person
who knows their language, he deemed it wise
to give him freedom to say and declare all he
considered would be the service of God of the
killing of his companions except in cases
and things criminal where his rights of priest-
hood prohibited, such as death by the cutting
of members. And this I say and sign in his
name Fray Francisco Marron in my presence.
St. Augustine, Florida, July 20, 1598.
In another letter of July 20, 159828 it was stated that
Fray Francisco de Avila would not speak of the killing of the
other friars because by the sacred cannons of priesthood, he
would be forced to condemn some which he would not do. But at
the time of his ransom the Governor had brought seven Indians
from the Peninsula who would tell all that they might claim.
The Governor ordered the Indians to be brought to him
27. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," op cit.,
and asked them questions.29 Was he a Christian? Yes. Had
there been a priest there named Fray Bias Rodrequez, and
what had they done to him? He said that about ten or twelve
moons past there was held a conference. When night came
they killed the priest. A helping hand was given them by a
chief called Pisiaches that he might kill him with a hatchet,
with which he gave him a blow on the head, and he died almost
instantly. They buried him at the church. What causes did
they have for killing the priest? That Micas and Casiques30
said they killed him because he was artful and took away
their enchantment or witchcraft, and would not allow them to
have more than one wife.31
The crime was found to have been committed by Lucas, the
Indian son of the Casique de Tuqui. He was hanged for it.
They asked the same Indian how Fray Francisco had been
treated in prison. He said that "sometimes they beat him
29. Ibid., p. 219.
30. Casique was the name for the chief of the tribe.
31. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," loc. cit.,
with a stick and abused him. They sometimes fed him but not
always, and when they did it was on leaves and tendrils of
There are different stories as to how Father Avila was
One stated that his owners grew tired of him and were
going to burn him at the stake, when a woman whose son was
held prisoner at St. Augustine, obtained him to exchange him
for her son.33
Another stated that he would have been killed had it
not been for the intervention of Casique of Tulapo who took
him from the Indians, saying that Avila was his father and
he would protect him.34
The chronicler Barcia says of the murdering of the
missionaries: "The punishment of God did not fail to visit
these cruel men, for many who took part in these martyrdoms
hanged themselves with the strings of their own bows; others
32. Ibid, p. 219-220
33. Shea, o. cit., p. 155.
34. Averett and Brooks, The Unwritten History of Old
St. Augustine, p. 45.
died disastrously, while God visited a great famine upon that
province, from which many died."35
In 1597, Father Richard Artur, from Ireland, succeeded
Father Marron as parish priest and chaplain of the monastery
in St. Augustine.
Bishop Antonio Deaz de Salcedo, of Havana, declared the
duties of Father Artur:
Because it is fitting for the service of God,
our Lord, and for the salvation of the souls
of the faithful under our care, who live at
St. Augustine; in order that in all things
there be justice and the sacraments of Holy
Mother Church be administered to the faithful;
and in order that through the said ministry
these souls of the faithful be saved and those
of the infidels be attracted to the knowledge
of our holy Faith with becoming love and
charity; it is necessary to appoint such a
person as possesses the necessary zeal, and
will use and exercise it in our name, to the
office of parish Priest at St. Augustine, who
is to act as our vicar.36
On March 14, 1599, the Convent and the fortifications
were destroyed by fire. Until it could be restored the
35. Father Matthew Connolly, "Indians Beat, Whip, Burn
Missioner," The Florida Catholic (May 13, 1960).
36. Father Matthew Connolly, "First Irish Priest Ar-
rived in 1598," The Florida Catholic (April 22, 1960).
Fathers occupied the Hermitage of Nuestra Senora de la
Soledad, which had previously been used as a hospital.37
When in 1602 the structure had not been rebuilt, the
King sent 800 ducats to restore them.
In a letter by Governor Ybarra on January 8, 1604, he
stated that "everything was in a state of neglect; and the
settlers as well as the soldiers of the garrison would at
this time have been deprived of the consolation of religion
but for the Franciscan Fathers; so Governor Canso proposed
that the Guardian of the Convent, on whom he and his com-
munity the whole spiritual care of the place had devolved,
should been made parish priest and chaplain of the fort."38
When the monastery was rebuilt in 1610 the King selected
it as a Capitular House. "It was here" says John Lee
Williams in his history of Florida, "that the See of Rome
chartered this great religious province under the Order of
Franciscans. It was called St. Helena. All the minor
establishments throughout the province were represented at
37. Shea, The Catholic Church in Colonial Days, p. 221
38. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine" op. cit.,
the great Franciscan house in St. Augustine."39
One of the most outstanding men in the history of the
Convent in St. Augustine was Father Francis Pareja, who was
Guardian of the Convent of Immaculate Conception in 1612,
when two catechisms by him, in the Timuquan language, were
printed at Mexico.40
The calamities the Indians had suffered dampened their
pride and stubbornness. As a result of this, the Governor
of Florida was able to go around Florida and once more
introduce the missionaries in the villages where they had
been killed, including all others. Meanwhile he appealed to
Mexico to send more missionaries and more defense to safe-
guard the small area settled.41
The Franciscans were making progress with the Indians
because of all the kindness and good treatment they showed
them. Because of this the Indians became less ferocious and
cast away some of their evil habits.
39. Ibid., pp. 221-222.
40. Shea, op. cit., pp. 156-157.
41. Barcia, Barcia's History of Florida (Gainesville,
Florida: University of Fla. Press, 1951), pp. 186-187.
Because the land was so poor, the King still had to send
the friars whatever they needed. They had to go afoot
through swamps, mountain ranges, and suffered many hardships.
"Such was their charity that they saved, even from neces-
sities, and ordered candles for the burial of the Christian
Indians who died, while they said Mass for them as a way of
The Casiques liked the religious services in 1607 so
much during the Holy season in St. Augustine that they asked
the Friars to instruct them.43
Probably the most Christianized Indian was Don Juan.
In the Lent of 1609 the great Cacique of Timucua, who
had been instructed by the Franciscans, was baptized in St.
Augustine, as was his heir and ten of his chiefs. They were
all baptized here on Palm Sunday, with Governor Ibarra being
sponsor for the Cacique and his son. The whole ceremony was
attended with all the solemnity the little town could impart
to it. They were entertained til after Easter, when they
42. Ibid., p. 198
43. Averette and Brooks, _o. cit., p. 75
returned with a guard of honor.44
In 1616 the bishop that was appointed to visit Cuba was
also to make a visitation in St. Augustine but was not able
to. In his stead he sent Father Louis Jerome de Ore, lecturer
in theology and commissary of the Franciscan Order. He was
a native of Peru and very highly esteemed. He arrived in
St. Augustine on November 13, 1616. "He found the parish
church well supplied with church plate, silver chalices,
patens, cross, censer, boat and spoon of silver, and with
suitable vestments, which with the stocks for the holy oils,
were well kept by the actual parish priest, Juan de Lerdo."45
The missionaries in Florida were far apart and unable
to relieve each other; anyone who wished to approach the
sacred tribunal had a weary journey afoot, as I have already
mentioned, through everglades and streams, to reach a
brother priest. Several missionaries broke down from the
severe labors, and the Apalaches, who eagerly wanted clergy
44. Letter of Governor Ybarra, April, 1609, stated by
Shea in The Catholic Church in Colonial Days, p. 161.
45. Shea, Op. cit., p. 162.
to instruct them, were deferred, until the guardian of the
Convent at St. Augustine set out in person, in 1633, with a
single assistant. The custos of Florida, who wrote in
February 1635, states that the zealous missionary was still
there, and had baptized 5,000 of the tribe.46
On December 4, 1630, the King of Spain made especial
provision for the maintenance of the Convent, "Immaculate
Conception" and the missions. He ordered money annually to
be drawn from Mexico to furnish them with clothing and
Attached to the St. Francis monastery here in 1634 were
35 priests and a number of lay brothers.48
At this time St. Augustine ministered to 44 settlements
scattered all over the territory between St. Augustine and
Chesapeake Bay. The estimated number of Indians that were
46. Ibid, p. 163
47. Barcia, Ensayo Cronologico Para la Historia de la
Florida (Madrid, 1723), stated in "St. Francis Barracks," The
Florida Historical Quarterly, p. 222.
48. "St. Francis Barracks," op. cit., p. 222
converted were to have been 30,000 or more.4
Fairbanks states that in 1648 St. Augustine contain ..
"a flourishing monastery of the Order of St. Francis with 50
Franciscans, men very zealous for the conversion of the
Indians, and regarded by their countrymen with the highest
Since 1603, the convents of the two regions, Cubaand
Florida, were to comprise one unit with one superior for both
and the privilege of interchanging the friars from Cuba to
Florida. It was elevated to a province with the title of
Santa Elena de la Florida. The Convents were as follows:
1. Holy Redeemer, Havana, Cuba
2. St. James, Santiago, Cuba
3. St. Francis, Bayamo, Cuba
4. St. Catherine, Guale, (St. Catherine's
5. St. Peters, Cumberland Island, Georgia
6. St. Dominic Asao, (St. Simon Island,
7. St. Bonaventure, Guadalquine (perhaps
Jekyl Island, Georgia)
*8. Immaculate Conception, St. Augustine
50. George R. Fairbanks, The History and Antiquities
of St. Augustine, Florida (New York: Baker and Godwin
Printers, 1858), p. 114.
9. San Juan del Puerto (Talbot Island, near
mouth of St. Johns River)
10. St. Anthony, Agua Dulce (Florida: Daytona-
New Smyrna Area)
11. St. Anna, Potano (Florida: Lake George
The main Convent in Florida was the Convent of the Im-
maculate Conception in St. Augustine where in 1655 the Guardi-
an and two lay brothers resided. It was said by Shea52 that
this was the refuge of missionaries overcome by sickness at
their posts. I am inclined to disagree with him on this
statement. It could have been used as this kind of refuge,
but since it was the main Convent in Florida, this couldn't
very well have been its main use, as Shea seems to insinuate.
In 1657 the Governor of Florida sent orders to the
Cacique of Tarigica, an Apalache, that the chiefs were to go
to St. Augustine and must each one carry a certain load of
corn. The chiefs refused, claiming that they weren't vassals
whom the governor might order. They had become Christians
and had been conquered only by the word of God and what the
51. Father Matthew Connolly, "Franciscan Beginnings -
IV," The Florida Catholic (February 4, 1949).
52. Shea, op. cit., p. 165.
missionaris,. had taught them. A war broke out and the "Fran-
ciscan Fathers, unable to exercise any beneficial influence
over the Apalaches, whose minds were bitterly excited, em-
barked for Havana to await better times; but they were all
drowned on the passage, completing their sacrifice, but de-
priving Florida of all religious teachers skilled in the
In 1674 Bishop Gabriel Deaz Vara Calderon of Santiago
de Cuba visited St. Augustine. He said, "As regards its
spiritual welfare, it has a parish church dedicated to St.
Augustine, served by a priest, a sacristan and acolytes, and
a Franciscan monastery, headquarters for the province, called
St. Helena, with three monks, a superior, a preacher, a lay
The Nombre de Dios mission was served from the Francis-
can monastery in St. Augustine55
53 Letter Father John Gomez de Engraba, who had been
46 years on the Florida mission, quoted by Shea in Catholic
Church in Colonial Days, pp. 166-167.
54. Fathew Matthew Connolly, "Conditions in St. Augus-
tine Told," (The Florida Catholic (October 28, 1960)).
On October 22, 1702, during the Spanish Succession, St.
Augustine was set afire by Governor Moore of South Carolina.
Among the places destroyed were the Convent, the church of
the Franciscan Fathers, and other important buildings.
St. Augustine went through untold barbarities, including
the murder of seven missionaries.56
A Protestant clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Bray, Charles-
town, says: "To show what friends (?) some of them are to
learning and books, when they were at St. Augustine they
burned the convent library worth about 600 pounds sterling,
a collection of Greek and Latin Fathers: the Holy Bible it-
self did not escape destruction, because it was written in
Latin. This outrage was done as soon as they arrived, by the
order of Colonel Robert Daniel."57
To get an idea of the library of the monastery, Shea's
words tell us a lot concerning the burning of the library.
56. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," loc. cit.,
57. Doc., History P. E. Church, Vol. I, quoted in "St.
Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," The Florida Historical
Quarterly, p. 223.
"This was evidently the fine library of the Franciscan Con-
vent at St. Augustine, and is most creditable that a little
place like the capital of Florida, then possessed a library
of ecclesiastical words that could win for its extent and
value such encomium from an enemy,"58
After the burning Father Martin de Alsano, guardian of
the Convent, proceeded to Spain to portray the ruin of the
ancient place to the king.59
The Spanish monarch ordered the Convent rebuilt and
40,000 pesos60 were sent from Spain for repairs to the build-
The rebuilding of the St. Francis Convent was also in-
cluded in the 40,000 pesos. 6,387 pesos were for the com-
pletion of the church of St. Francis which was connected to
Governor Don Antonio de Benavides tells the king of
Spain the following concerning the monastery: "My zeal will
58. Shea, op. cit., p. 460
60. "Governor Antonio de Benavides, Florida, to the
Crown," (Document dated October 2, 1731), 1.
follow the construction of the claustral convent by exercis-
ing the greatest of care, although competent officials who
directed the construction are lacking at the present time. I
will do the same with regard to the completion of the Parochi-
al Church, using the necessary amount from the 20,000 pesos
which are left."61
Because of the use of all these pesos for the church and
Convent, Governor Benavides states that there won't be enough
money left for the people to rebuild their homes.
Five hundred seventy six pesos were used in paying the
superintendents of the works and the laborers who worked in
the quarrying of stone on Anastasia Island62 and the line
kilns which were made to start the construction of the Pa-
rochial Church and the Convent of St. Francis.
The Governor stated that the size and measurements of
the new convent were to be exactly like the one burned in
1702 which was found by measuring the foundations of the
burnt convent and was 56 yards long, 6 yards wide, and 6
61. Ibid., pp. 1-2
62. The stone was quarried at the site for the 400th
Anniversary Celebration Amphitheatre.
On the basis of these measurements which were given, the
masters of carpentry, as well as of masonry, said that for
its construction, either of wood or stone, as it appeared to
them, although they weren't sure, that 10,000 pesos would be
necessary. This money would include 25 cells, plus the
offices and other necessary items for the service of the
religious, and the salaries of the masters of the works and
In 1737 the convent and church still weren't finished
and so far they had spent 9,371 pesos, including the materi-
als for this purpose.65
The only thing done during all this time was to con-
struct a wretched chapel with four stone walls and a palmetto
roof, while nearby they made huts like those of the Indians
to serve as the Convent.
63, "Governor Antonio de Benavides," E Scit., p. 49
64. Ibj.id, p. 52
65. "Royal Accountancy, Madrid," Photostats in Stetson
Collection, University of Florida; translation by St. Augus-
tine Historical Society Library (May 28, 1737), 3.
The men employed in the building of the Castillo66 and
the Franciscan monastery were the Apalachian Indians and the
convicts from Mexico. Hundreds of men were needed to cut the
coquina rock found on Anastasia Island, transport it to the
water and take it across the bay by ferry.67
Both the Castillo and the Franciscan monastery were com-
pleted during the administration of Governor Don Alonzo
Fernandez de Huerra who was appointed in 1755.
66, The Castillo was being constructed the same time
the monastery was being rebuilt,
67. "St, Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," oR. cit.,
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II The British Regime
By the Treaty of 1763 with England, Florida no longer
belonged to Spain.
All of the Friars and most of the Spaniards left
Florida about 5,000 and went to Spain or to Cuba.
To protect the Church property from being seized by the
British, it was sold to an English Catholic named John Gordon
The British disregarded all these agreements and the
Franciscan monastery was turned over to the troops because
it has the best well water in town.68 Thus we see how the
monastery Immaculate Conception became the barracks for the
In the reorganized scheme for imperial defense in North
America, St. Augustine was designated as one of the military
stations, and became headquarters for a regiment, and usually
had the strength of about 200 men. In 1768, it was made the
headquarters for the Southern Brigade and was suppose to hold
three regiments but for various reasons was never put into
effect anc wis only named for two regiments.
In 1773, St. Augustine was headquarters for only one
During this time there was a big problem as to barracks
for all the troops. There were complaints of lack of proper
barracks in 1763, when officers and other men were in
dilapidated private homes and in the fort69
Estimates were drawn up but no action was taken until
the arrival of Col. Taylor as local commanding officer. In
January, 1766, he wrote to General Gage of the urgent need
of barracks for the men, and suggested adapting the Bishop's
House or Church of St. Francis, of which Grant70 had offered
him the choice. He recommended the church because it was
well situated at the southern end of town, near the bay, open
to sea breezes, and contiguous to the Franciscan convent
which Grant .ad already set aside for the officers' barracks,
69. Charles L. Mowat, "St.o '-ar.: Barracks, St. Augus-
tine, A Link With The British Regime," Florida Historical
uarterly (1943), I, 267.
70. Grant was the Governor of Florida at that time.
to accommodate 18 officers.71
The Bishop's house housed 70 men but was at a disad-
vantage because it was in the middle of town and a bad place
for discipline. The rest of the men were in tumble-down
huts and houses, and in unhealthy rooms at the fort.
Work on the new barracks was begun in St. Augustine in
1767. Taylor wrote of "advantageous contracts he had made
for the plank, and for stone from Anastasia Island to be
delivered at the high water mark near the site of the bar-
The wood for these barracks was imported from New York.
"A wharf was made for the unloading of the timber and
provisions, and plans drawn for a two story building with
terrace roof and galleries, containing in all eight rooms,
each accommodating a company."73 This was constructed
71, A letter from Grant to Gage, "Gage Papers" (Oct. 2
and Dec. 8, 1764), stated by Mowat in "St. Francis Barracks,
St. Augustine, A Link With the British Regime," 270.
72. A letter from Taylor to Gage, "Gage Papers" (Aug.
29, 1767), quoted by Mowat in "St. Francis Barracks, St.
Augustine, A Link With the British Regime," 271.
73. A letter from Taylor to Gage, "Gage Papers" (Nov.4
and 9, 1767, Feb. 14, 1768), quoted by Mowat in "St. Francis
Barracks, St. Augustine, A Link With the British Regime," 221
adjacent to the Convent.
Things became uneasy between Taylor and Gage when Taylor
had gone over the 1765 estimate of the cost of the barracks.
Taylor reiterated the need of new barracks again to Gage,
mentioning the present scattered and exposed quarters of the
men and the resulting drunkenness and irregularities. Gage
offered to build the barracks at his own expenses and sell
them back when he was relieved of his command, or only build
one story instead of two stories and keep the surplus materi-
als at his expense until the Treasury's orders were received.
Gage soothed the Colonel as best he could and even sent
bolts and other fixtures which could be bought more cheaply
in New York than locally.74
Progress in the building of the barracks was very slow
under Taylor and his successors. The old church which formed
one front of the new barracks, was badly in need of repair
and one of the walls had to be partly taken down. Griffiths,
the mason who had contracted to deliver the stone, ran away.
74. A letter from Gage to Taylor, "Gage Papers", (June
21, 1768), stated by Mowat in "St. Francis Barracks, St.
Augustine, A Link With the British Regime," 271.
One mason injured himself, leaving only one at work in the
summer of 1768. There was also difficulty in quarrying the
General Haldimand took over in April, 1769 when the bri-
gade headquarters were moved to St. Augustine. He failed to
help matters any, but it did lead to expansion of the already
lagging program. In 1769 he wrote to Gage proposing to add
another wooden story to one wing of the convent, to provide
room for 10 or 15 officers, who were still quartered in
rented houses.76 The completed building would then include
both the Convent of St. Francis and the Church. In 1771, two
stories of men's barracks were apparently complete, for Col.
Maxwell77 mentioned complaints from men in the upper rooms
of the Franciscan barracks because of rain beating on the
The officers' barracks in the Convent weren't finished
until May because of the loss of sea material sent from
75. Mowat, O~. cit,, p. 271
76. A letter from Haldimand to Gage, "Gage Papers,"
(July 6, 1769), stated by Mowat in "St. Francis Barracks, St.
Augustine, A Link With the British Regime," 273.
77. Mowat, loc. cit., p. 273.
England the previous summer. On May 28, 1771 the payments
were stopped for the lodging of officers and they moved into
Gage wrote, "It is full time considering the continual
work for the accommodation of the troops that have been carry-
ing on for years at St. Augustine."78
Gage expressed his views to Maxwell as follows: "I hope
St. Francis Barrack is finished. I was drawn into a scrape
in that affair, first by Col. Taylor, and afterwards by
General Haldimand, and I want to hear no more of it."79
Romans, who has been described as a contemporaneous
writer, calls them "Such stupendous piles of buildings, which
were large enough to contain five regiments when it was a
matter of great doubt whether there will ever be necessity to
keep one whole regiment here.... Most men would think the
money spent would have been better laid out in roads and
78. A letter from Gage to Mackenzie, "Gage Papers"
(Sept. 8, 1761), quoted by Mowat in "St. Francis Barracks,
St. Augustine, A Link With the British Regime," 273.
79. A letter from Gage to Maxwell, "Gage Papers" (Oct.
9, 1770), quoted by Mowat in "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augus-
tine, A Link With the British Regime," 273
fences throughout the province.... Convent with church is
taken into the body of the barracks."80
While the St. Francis Barracks were completed other bar-
racks were also constructed in the site of where the National
Cemetery now is. It was a very handsome building but not'
The troops from the convent moved in those barracks in
As poorly constructed as these barracks might have been,
they had an outstanding medical record. In all the time they
were there, not one man died by natural death. During that
time a sickly detachment of artillery from the West Indies
came, they recruited but left no signs of their contagion.81
While the new barracks were constructed, the St. Francis
Barracks continued to be used for military purposes even
though it was allowed to fall out of repair in the closing
years of the British regime.
80. Bernard Romans, A Concise Natural History of East
and West Florida (New Orleans, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing
Company, 1961), pp. 261-262.
81. James Grant Forbes, Sketches, Historical and Topo-
graphical of the Floridas (New York, C. S. Van Winkle, 1821),
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III The Second Spanish Period
By the Treaty of 1783 St. Augustine was returned to
Spain. The Franciscans of the Province of Santa Elena de la
Florida had not been indifferent because of the recovery of
the colony. The Reverend Francisco Roderico Capote, on
July 3, 1784, in the name of the Province of which he was the
delegate and Custos, petitioned the Crown asking that they
should put the mission which had belonged to them when Florida
was ceded to the English in possession of the Convent.82
He said that the convent was still standing and their
Province had been in possession of it and the Indian missions
for a century and a half before 1763, as it appeared by the
Royal Cedulas in the archives of the Commissary General. He
said that since Florida was restored to the Crown of Spain,
they were ready and even anxious to return and resume their
labors among the Indians to convert and teach them.
This matter was considered by the king in the Council
of Indies and the opinions were also requested before definite
82. Relaciones Capote (July 3, 1784), stated in "St.
Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," The Florida Historical
Quarterly, p. 225.
action was taken by the Bishop of Santiago de Cuba and the
Governor of Florida. Governor Zespedes deemed it inadvisable
in his reply to introduce the Franciscans again until the
country was settled by the Spaniards and a larger population
was there. The rights of the Franciscans were acknowledged:
"But, as Governor Zespedes averred, the edifice
which formerly served them as a convent was
completely transformed and had lost all appear-
ance of such a habitation for Religious; that
it was too far from the city to allow the friars
to furnish promptly to the faithful any spiri-
tual consolation; that in the event of their re-
turn, it would be necessary to rebuild the con-
vent and the church and set aside a fund to
support the friars till there were faithful
enough to contribute the necessary alms; that
four priests already there, sufficed for the
wants of the people."83
The Governor's argument prevailed that the Franciscans
were not to return to St. Augustine but a document discovered
in the Royal Hacienda in Havana stated that the Friars did
return in 1786 after they obtained permission to re-establish
themselves in their old convent and missions. The first and
only one to arrive were the two Franciscans, Fray Trocomes,
a school teacher, and Fra Juan, who acted as a chaplain to
83. Letter of Governor Zespedes (Sept. 1, 1768), quoted
in "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine," The Florida Histori-
cal Quarterly, p. 226
the garrison. On May 21st the Governor of St. Augustine
wrote to the Provincial to remind him of his promise for
more Franciscans but no more came. The last Franciscan left
Florida in 1795 according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. His
name was not given.
In 1792 the wooden barracks on the site where now is
the National Cemetery burned and all the Spanish troops were
housed in the convent itself.
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IV The Change of Flags
On July 10, 1821, Florida no longer belonged to Spain
but became a territory of the United States.
After the change of flags, the first main use of the
convent was a jail. It is interesting to note what Forbes
has to say about the barracks in 1821:
"From the parade, environed by orange trees,
the streets extend southwardly to some large
stone buildings, one of which formerly was a
Franciscan convent, now converted into a jail;
but under the British Government was used as
barracks. In addition, a very handsome range,
four stories high, was constructed of wood,
and of materials brought from New York, and
intended for Pensacola; but was detained by
the southern extremity of the peninsula, in
which the town is built, formed an elegant
appendage to it, but was burnt, and now ex-
hibit only the stacks of chimneys, of which
the bricks appear as perfect as they did half
a century past, notwithstanding their con-
stant exposure to wind and weather."
In 1832 Congress passed an act setting it aside as a
military reservation, and in 1838 was occupied as a military
post by a regiment of Light Artillery. It remained an Artil-
lery Post until September 12, 1900.85
84. Forbes, op. cit, p. 87.
85. Brig. Gen. Vivian Collins, Radio Address
The appearance of the barracks had been changed a lot
by the U. S. Government during this time. "It formerly had
a large circular look-out upon the top, from which a beauti-
ful view of the surrounding country was obtained."86
During the Seminole War, troops were sent from the bar-
racks in St. Augustine on patrols to the south, among the
harried plantations along the Tomoko and Mosquito River Dis-
tricts, as well as on missions along the St. Johns River.
The descriptions of barracks life at that particular time
were recorded by officers who were stationed in St. Augus-
It is interesting to note that the soldiers of the bar-
racks were the guards of Geronimo's Indians that were at the
During the Civil War, the St. Francis Barracks were oc-
cupied by Federal troops, and other facilities were added.
86, George R. Fairbanks, The History and Antiquities
of the City of Sto. Augustine, Florida (New York: Baker and
Godwin, 1858), p. 188.
87. History of St. Francis Barracks, State Arsenal, St.
88. History of the Arsenal (Oct. 1, 1961)
It still remained a military post after the cessation.
The barracks were remodeled in 1867 by the War Depart-
ment of the U. S. Suites were provided for the officers
living quarters and reception rooms were constructed also
where many "gala affairs were held."89 The Saturday dress
parades there always drew a crowd.
From the St. Augustine Examiner, Nov. 9, 1867: "The
Barracks which have just been completed, are an ornament to
the town; too much praise cannot be given to Mr. Davis, the
Superintendent, and to Lieutenant and Quartermaster Logan."9
The first time that the title "St. Francis Barracks,
St. Augustine, Florida" was found being used was in the report
for April, 1881. The post was at that time garrisoned by
Companies A and H of the Fifth Artillery. All subsequent
reports were headed "St. Francis Barracks."91
In 1900 the barracks were abandoned by the U. S. Army.
90. "St. Francis Barracks," Op. cit., p. 227
91. This information supplied by Peter Stewart, St.
Augustine, stated in "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine,
Florida," The Florida Historical Quarterly, p. 227.
For a year it served as an abode for orphans and sisters
of the Convent Church of St. Mary's Home maintained by the
Sisters of St. Joseph in Jacksonville.
The State of Florida leased the buildings for five years
as the State Military Headquarters on Aug. 15, 1907 for "one
dollar a year."92 The lease was renewed in 1913.
On Dec. 13, 1915 a fire broke out in the main building
of the group of buildings constituting the "Federal Military
Reservation of St. Francis Barracks,"93 housing the officers
of the general's department and the general headquarters of
the National Guard. The upper story of the building, which
was known as St. Francis Barracks building, was destroyed,
and though the walls were left standing it was later reported
that they could not be used in any way. This prediction
was not borne out.
92. J. E. Dovell, Ph.D., Morida,Historic Dramatic Con-
teMporary(New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc.,
1952) II, 713.
93. Mowat, o. cit., p. 279.
94. Report of the Adjutant General of the State of
Florida for the year 1915, stated by Mowat, "The Florida His-
torical Quarterly," p. 279.
In 1921 the state legislature appropriated $40,000 for the
reconstruction of the main building.
The plans for the restoration of the barracks were drawn
up by Francis A. Hollingsworth under the direction of the late
Adjutant General Charles P. Lovell. It was modeled after the
lines of the former structure. "Not only were the old coquina
walls used in the rebuilding but some small portion of the
wood was found usable. The appearance and conditions of these
walls, and especially the foundations, indicated great age;
they are apparently the remains of the original structures, as
was believed in the last century."95 Illustrations showing it
at different periods of time show little or no change of ap-
One of the resolutions concerning the rebuilding of the
Arsenal is as follows:
Senate Concurrent Resultion No. 20:
A MEMORIAL TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
OF AMERICA ASKING THAT IT GRANT TO THE STATE OF
FLORIDA FOR MILITARY PURPOSES, THE SAND AND
BUILDINGS KNOWN AS ST. FRANCIS BARRACKS IN THE
CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE, IN SAID STATE.
95. Statements of McIntosh & Young, contractors for the
rebuilding, and A. T. Long, Superintendent, of Pensacola,
quoted by Mowat, Florida Historical Quarterly, p. 279.
96. Mowat, loc. cit., p. 279
Whereas It is understood that the United
States contemplates the early abandonment of the
property in St. Augustine, Florida, known as St.
Francis Barracks, as a military post, or reser-
vation for military purposes; and
Whereas The historic associations connected
with said St. Francis Barracks make it fitting
that the military character and use of said
property should be preserved and continued; there-
Be It Resolved by the House of Representa-
tives, the Senate Concurring:
(1) That the Congress of the United States
be, and is hereby requested to grant to the State
of Florida the property constituting and known as
St. Francis Barracks, located in the City of St.
Augustine, in the State of Florida, to be kept,
maintained and used by the said State of Florida,
for military purposes and no other.
(2) That the Secretary of State be, and is
hereby directed to furnish to each of the Senators
and Representatives from this State a copy of this
resolution certified under the great seal of the
After the rebuilding in 1921 the first floor had a mili-
tary museum containing various kinds of guns. It had a large
auditorium on the second floor to seat 500 people and was used
by various organizations such as the Little Theatre.98
98. Interview, with Brig. Gen, Ralph W. Cooper, Jr.
about the State Arsenal, (March 12, 1962).
The National Guard mobilized in 1940 and most of the men
at the Arsenal left.
During World War II the Selective Service moved into the
Arsenal until the war was over. At this time a new wing was
After the war more room was needed for offices and the
offices and the first floor were remodeled.100 The auditorium
has very recently been converted into offices also.
Unlike the convent of years past, the Arsenal today has
every modern convenience, including wall-to-wall carpeting
and air conditioning, even though the outside also has the
appearance of the 19th century.
The Arsenal, which at one time was considered a sacred
spot, and later on as barracks for military troops, has one
of the most interesting histories of any building in the
United States, besides being one of the oldest.
Through the years many great men have prayed in this
spot, and fought and suffered for their country on this same
The one goal strived for in this ancient building has
always been and always will be to safeguard our country in
time of war and to work for the betterment of our country in
the time of peace.
1. Averette and Brooks, The Unwritten History of Old St.
2. Barcia. Barcia's History of Florida, Gainesville,
Florida: University of Florida Press,
3. Brown, George M. Ponce de Leon Land St. Augustine,
Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, 1895
4. Cash, W. T. The Story of Florida, New York: The Ameri-
can Historical Society, Inc., II, 1938
5. Chatelain, Verne E.
6. Clarke, Richard H.,
The Defenses of Spanish Florida -
1.565 to 1763 (Publication 511).
Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution
of Washington, 1941.
LL.D. Lives of the Deceased Bishops
of the Catholic Church, New York, III
7. Clavreul, Very Rev. H. P., V.G. Notes on the Catholic
8. Collins, Brig. Gen. Vivian. Radio Address, WJAX
9. Connolly, Father
10. Connolly, Father
Matthew. "Conditions in St. Augustine
Told," The Florida Catholic (Oct. 28,
Matthew. "First Irish Priest Arrived in
1598," The Florida Catholic (April
11. Connolly, Father Matthew. "Franciscan Beginnings IV,"
The Florida Catholic (Feb. 4, 1949.)
12. Connolly, Father
Matthew, "Heroic Missionaries Die
Martyrs," The Florida Catholic (May
13. Connolly, Father Matthew. "Indians Beat, Whip, Burn Mis-
sioner," The Florida Catholic (May
14. Connolly, Father
15. Connolly, Father
Matthew. "Missions Founded from St.
Augustine," The Florida Catholic
Matthew. "More Missioners Arrive in
Florida," The Florida Catholic (April
Father Matthew. "Priest Who Offered First Parish
Mass in U. S. Was Olden St. Augustine"'
Founding Pastor," The Florida Catholic
(Jan 6, 1961)
William W. The History of Saint Augustine,
Florida, New York: GP. Putnam's Sons,
18. Dodd, r. Dorothy.
19. Dovell, J. E. Ph.D.
20. Dovell, J. E. Ph,D
Florida The Land of Romance, Talla-
hassee, Florida: Peninsular Publishing
Florida Historic Dramatic Contemporary
New York: Lewis Historical Publishing
Co., Inc., I, 1952.
Florida Historic Dramatic Contemporary,
New York: Lewis Historical Publishing
Co., Inc., II, 1952.
21. Eligio, Juan Joseph. Map of San Agustin de Florida, photo-
stat, St. Augustine Historical Society
Library (Jan. 22, 1764).
22. Fairbanks, George R. The History and Antiquities of St.
Augustine, Florida, New York: Baker and
Godwin, Printers, 1858.
23. Forbes, James Grant. Sketches, Historical and Topographi-
cal, of the Floridas, New York: Printed
and Published by C. S. Van Winkle, 1821.
24. Governor Antonio de Benavides, Florida, to the Crown, Photo-
stats in Stetson Collection University
of Florida; translation St. Augustine
Historical Society Library (Oct 2, 1731).
25. History of the Arsenal (Oct. 1, 1961). A leaflet of the
26. History St. Francis Barracks. State Arsenal, St. Augustine,
27. Moncrief, James. Map of St. Augustine in 1765, Public
Records office, London, Photostat St.
Augustine Historical Society Library.
28. Morris, Allen. The Florida Handbook, Tallahassee, Florida.
The Peninsular Publishing Co., 1955.
29. Mowat, Charles L. "St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine, A
Link With The British Regime," in the
Florida Historical Quarterly, XXI, 1943.
30. Rocque, Mariano de la. The Detailed Plan of The City of
San Agustin of East Florida (April 25,
31. Romans, Bernard. A Concise Natural History of East and
West Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana:
Pelican Publishing Co., 1961,
32. Royal Accountancy Madrid, Photostats in Stetson Collection,
University of i'orida; translation St.
Augustine Historical Society Library
(bay 26, 1737).
33. Shea, John Gilmary. The Catholic Church in Colonial Days
34. St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine; The Franciscans in
Florida, Florida Historical Quarterly,
Gainesville, Florida: Pepper Printing
Co., VII, 1928.
35. "Friars" The Catholic Encyclopedia, VI, 193.