Pedro Menendez

About Pedro Menéndez

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and St. Augustine are synonymous. He was a prominent figure in the age of exploration and conquest, most renowned for his role in establishing one of the first permanent European settlements in the New World. Pedro Menéndez’s biography dictates his achievements as a Spanish officer and conquistador, leaving an indelible mark in world history. His conquering of Florida was under the rule of King Philip II of Spain, who tasked Menéndez with claiming Florida for Spain and preventing the French from colonizing the territory. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was successful in this task. During his journey through Florida, he made contact with the natives and set up several forts in key locations to protect the Spanish crown’s new land. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés remains significant to Floridian and American history for his contributions to the New World.


He was appointed Captain of the Indies fleet after proving himself an esteemed leader when he captured two French frigates and drove away a third while captaining his own vessel.


Pedro Menéndez is most notable for exploring and establishing St. Augustine, Florida. He was tasked by King Philip II to drive out the French Huguenots and secure the territory as Spanish land. His success in St. Augustine led Menéndez to continue his colonization into southeastern Florida.

What Is This Individual Most Known and/or Famous For?

Pedro Menéndez’s biography is a tribute to his success as a leader and conquistador. His significant role in the colonization of Florida and his achievement as the founder of the oldest city in the nation secured an enduring legacy for the Menéndez de Avilés name. In 1565, he embarked on an arduous journey with a fleet of 11 ships, 2,000 men and a mission to remove the French Huguenot settlers and establish St. Augustine, Florida, as Spanish territory. In recognition of his success, Menéndez was named Florida’s first governor. He was the quintessential conquistador, leading his armada with intrepid exploration, boundless energy, and unwavering loyalty to the crown. Pedro Menéndez is forever enshrined as an icon in Florida and New World history and an indispensable figure in the Age of Exploration and colonization.

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés Claims Florida for Spain

One of the most renowned events during the discovery of the New World was the establishment of Florida as a Spanish colony. Much of Pedro Menéndez’s biography notes his efforts to establish the settlement of St. Augustine, America’s oldest city. His maiden voyage to Florida was in 1565, with an armada of 11 ships and over 2,000 sailors, as well as their families. On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menéndez assigned the name St. Augustine to the settlement, not only officially marking the founding of the city but declaring it Spanish territory.


His determination and perseverance to claim Spanish land in the New World is still honored today in America's oldest city.

How He Lived Out the Remainder of His Life

In 1567, Pedro Menéndez returned to Spain, satisfied that he had fulfilled his contract with King Philip II. In October of that year, he was appointed governor of Cuba. For the next seven years, Menéndez continued his transatlantic voyages. His return to Florida was motivated by a desire to bring more Spanish settlers to continue colonizing the territory, as well as to continue the search for his son, Juan Marqués. Unfortunately, Menéndez never found him. As he continued the expansion of Spanish power throughout South Florida, he made contact with local tribes, negotiating for things he was in need of, such as translators for his journey to Cuba. Pedro Menéndez returned to Spain in 1572 and died from typhus two years later in Santander, Spain on September 17, 1574. He was laid to rest in Santander, Spain and remained there until 1924.

Three hundred and fifty years after the death of Pedro Menéndez, there was a significant development regarding the location of his final resting place. Menéndez’s remains were removed from his original casket and he was interred in a wall crypt within the Church of San Nicolás, in his birthplace, Avilés, Spain. His original casket was then gifted to the city of St. Augustine, where it has been preserved and is on display at the Mission Nombre de Dios Museum.


How many ships did Pedro Menéndez have?
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés had a fleet of 11 ships when he set sail for Florida in 1565 to establish the settlement of St. Augustine and drive out the French colonists.

Why did Pedro Menéndez come to Florida?
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés came to Florida in 1565 with the primary mission of establishing a Spanish presence in the region and driving out the French colonists. He was sent by King Philip II of Spain to remove the French settlers, particularly the Huguenots, who had established a colony in Florida.

Where did Pedro Menéndez travel?
Pedro Menéndez traveled to many places. He spent time in South America establishing territory for the Spanish crown, but his most notable expedition was to Florida and its surrounding areas, what are known today as Georgia, South Carolina and Cuba.

Was Menéndez in the Canaveral National Seashore area?
While making his way south to Cuba, Menéndez’s men captured a group of Frenchmen and left them as prisoners at the Spanish fort in Cape Canaveral.


Potter’s studio is where the magic happens! Every part of the process except for fiberglassing the body is done here. Figures are sculpted, painted, dressed, and detailed in view of guests.


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