National Geographic : 1949 Jan
National Geographic Photographer Willard R. Culver Four Flags Have Waved Above St. Augustine's Hoary Castillo de San Marcos Though the Spanish-built fort was never taken by storm, it knew a succession of masters as Florida passed from the red-and-gold flag of Spain to the Union Jack of Britain and finally the Stars and Stripes of the United States, with a brief period under the Confederate Stars and Bars. Massive walls are coquina, a rock composed of myriad tiny shells. Once the fort wore a gleaming white coat (see below). leys, and plains set with the southernmost cities of the Golden State (page 57). Three of the early Spanish missions are among the national shrines: Gran Quivira, in New Mexico; Tumacacori, in Arizona; and San Jose, in Texas. Over hot, weary miles from Mexico the missionaries to the Indians brought sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and seeds -but the most lasting seeds they sowed were those of the Christian religion (page 58). On the sands south of St. Augustine, Flor ida, first permanent white settlement in the United States, Fort Matanzas National Monu ment recalls another side of Spanish colonial character, a strange contradiction of cross and cruelty, Bible and blood. Matanzas means slaughters. Thereabouts, in 1565, the year St. Augustine was founded, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and his men put to the sword nearly 300 French Huguenots who had settled on the St. Johns River. The deed gave its name to this watchtower blockhouse. "It looks like a big stone piano," a fellow visitor remarked. At the northern gate of St. Augustine the Spaniards in 1672 began building a mighty bulwark against the British to the north. Piously named for St. Mark-Castillo de San Marcos-it guarded Florida and the offshore treasure route and served as a base for Spanish activities in the Southeast for generations. The moated fortress, finished in 1756, has never been taken by storm-except by the crowds of peaceful pilgrims that daily swarm through this national monument. Gray with age, the fort is built of coquina, soft lime stone made up of millions of minute sea shells. Colonial cannon balls had little effect on the yielding, unbrittle "shell rock." "What do you think of the Castillo?" a ranger asked a young visitor recently. "Aw, it would be all right," he said, "if it had a coat of paint."