Nuestra Señora de la Soledad | Our Lady of Solitude

St. Augustine’s first Catholic parish – Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Our Lady of the Remedies) – met just south of today’s Plaza de la Constitución from 1572 to 1702. However, Carolina Governor James Moore’s 1702 siege left St. Augustinians without a place to worship – save the chapel of a hospital. Located to the south on St. George Street, the Hermita de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) escaped the destruction that befell most of the city.

A black and white illustration of a wood building with a cross on top and a separate, shorter bell tower.
A rendering of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad before its 1736 reconstruction. (UFDC)

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad began as a chapel built shortly after 1572. Its name referred to María de la Soledad, a title belonging to the Virgin Mary. The addition of a hospital came in 1597, making the site one of the first hospitals in the continental United States. Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canço states in a letter to the Crown on February 23, 1598 that the hospital saved many soldiers, Native Americans, and enslaved people during an epidemic fever in 1597. By 1697, the chapel enlarged into a church and coquina replaced the structure’s wood boards in 1736.

When Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad converted into an Anglican institution called St. Peter’s Church. During this period, the building received a new bell tower and west-facing entrance. Upon departure in 1784, the British gutted the structure leaving behind “a useless pile of masonry,” so the Spanish dismantled the structure and reused the stone in their new parish church. We know this new building as the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine – located north of today’s Plaza de la Constitución.

A section of a black and white illustrated map of St. Augustine.
This 1777 map of St. Augustine labels Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (then St. Peter’s Church) as “Parifh Church.” (UFDC)

Today, the Sisters of St. Joseph preserve the former-site of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. A historical marker recognizes “one of the most complex sites” in the Oldest City as described by historian Michael Gannon.

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