St. Augustine’s 400th vs. 450th celebrations

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About this time almost 50 years ago, the people of St. Augustine were in the midst of a big celebration. There was the nightly fiesta known as Days of Spain. Buildings were restored and reconstructed, and there was an overall celebration.

Some of the most important things from 50 years ago are the legacy projects that are still standing today such as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and The Great Cross.

With the success back then, the Nation’s Oldest City will be commemorated with legacy projects that are sure to change St. Augustine’s landscape forever.

It could be said that the 400th commemoration laid the foundation, and without it, the 450th may not be in the works.

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400TH LEGACY PROJECTS

St. Augustine Amphitheatre

Music legend, Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre’s big upcoming performances in October of this year.

When big names like John Legend and Lynyrd Skynyrd come to the Nation’s Oldest City, there’s only one entertainment center that can hold the big crowds they bring: The St. Augustine Amphitheatre.

The Amphitheatre, which is a 16-acre section of Anastasia State Park, was originally constructed in 1965 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city.

St. Johns County donated labor as well as equipment to excavate the site that was originally in the location of the Royal Quarries.

The St. Augustine Rotary Club and the St. Augustine Jaycees raised funds for the Amphitheatre’s construction while many other organizations helped other areas.

Before it became home to big-name performers, it was solely dedicated to Florida’s official state play, “Cross and Sword.”

After the show’s running ended decades after its 1965 debut, the Amphitheatre succumbed to a state of disarray and decay.

In 2002, St. Johns County decided to invest in the performance venue and have it refurbished.

Now the state-of-the-art performing arts venue can hold more than 4,000 concertgoers and contains four concession stands, a merchandise area, a large plaza, a conference area and an elaborate arboretum of walking trails.

The Great Cross

The Great Cross brings visitors from all over and is seen as a “Beacon of Faith” for all who pass its way.

Standing at an impressive height above marshes of the Matanzas River is the Great Cross. Its sturdy structure of stainless steel is 208 ft. tall, weighs 70 tons, and becomes illuminated with lights at night.

Although the cross would not be completed until September of 1966, it was erected at the direction of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, then the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine to commemorate the nation’s oldest city.

The Great Cross was planted in the same spot where Pedro Menendez landed back in 1565.

In 1966, there was a big celebration where the cross was dedicated and about 25,000 people attended.

According to the Mission and Shrine it presides over, the cross is a Beacon of Faith that serves to remind the visitors of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross as well as the role played by the Catholic religion in the history of both Florida and the U.S.

‘Cross and Sword’

‘Cross and Sword’ playwright, Paul Green was recognized for being one of the first white playwrights to write perceptively about African-Americans in the South.

The production of “Cross and Sword” premiered in the summer of 1965 at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. In fact, for about 32 years, it was the only production that played at the amphitheatre.

The production was written by Pulitzer-prize winner Green.

Green, a famed folk dramatist, wrote “Cross and Sword” as well as many others in order to promote tourism for the play’s home state.

The play re-enacts the founding and early years of St. Augustine under Menendez.

Costumes, props and everything were researched for the authenticity of the production.

In 1973, “Cross and Sword” became Florida’s Official State Play and was designated as so by the State Legislature in recognition of the cultural and historic value of the play.

Publications like the Birmingham News, Florida Magazine and the Miami Herald all praised the show.

During its 32-year run, the production received grants from both the state and the county but came to a close when its popularity became outlived.

Other 400th projects include but are not limited to restored and reconstructed buildings in the historic center of the Oldest City, Prince of Peace Votive Church, Cathedra Basilica renovations, Casa del Hidalgo, City Gate restoration and Cubo Line reconstruction.

‘Cross and Sword’

“Cross and Sword” playwright, Paul Green was recognized for being one of the first white playwrights to write perceptively about African-Americans in the South.

The production of “Cross and Sword” premiered in the summer of 1965 at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. In fact, for about 32 years, it was the only production that played at the Amphitheatre.

The production was written by Pulitzer-prize winner Green.

Green, a famed folk dramatist, wrote “Cross and Sword” as well as many others in order to promote tourism for the play’s home state.

The play re-enacts the founding and early years of St. Augustine under Menendez.

Costumes, props and everything were researched for the authenticity of the production.

In 1973, “Cross and Sword” became Florida’s Official State Play and was designated so by the State Legislature in recognition of the cultural and historic value of the play.

Publications like the Birmingham News, Florida Magazine and the Miami Herald all praised the show.

During its 32-year run, the production received grants from both the state and the county but came to a close when its popularity became outlived.

Other 400th projects include but are not limited to restored and reconstructed buildings in the historic center of the Oldest City, Prince of Peace Votive Church, Cathedra Basilica renovations, Casa del Hidalgo, City Gate restoration and Cubo Line reconstruction.

The Great Cross

The Great Cross brings visitors from all over and is seen as a “Beacon of Faith” for all who pass its way.

Standing at an impressive height above marshes of the Matanzas River is the Great Cross. Its sturdy structure of stainless steel is 208 feet tall, weighs 70 tons, and becomes illuminated with lights at night.

Although the cross would not be completed until September of 1966, it was erected at the direction of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, then the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine to commemorate the nation’s oldest city.

The Great Cross was planted in the same spot where Pedro Menendez landed back in 1565.

In 1966, there was a big celebration where the cross was dedicated, and about 25,000 people attended.

According to the Mission and Shrine it presides over, the cross is a Beacon of Faith that serves to remind the visitors of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross as well as the role played by the Catholic religion in the history of both Florida and the U.S.