A Student of History

August 8, 2006

Georgia-Home of Saints?

Filed under: The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 12:30 am

The Atlanta Journal has an interesting article on the South’s old Spanish past, which often is overlooked (part of the Black Legend, maybe?)  Here’s an extract:

As cold cases go, the cranium in his custom-made carry-on case was a classic. A long time ago, someone lost his head — this particular head — near present-day Darien, on the Georgia coast.

Now [Chris] Stojanowski, a bioarchaeologist at Arizona State University’s new School of Human Evolution and Social Change, wants to find out more about the brittle skull which, until recently, was gathering dust in a Georgia laboratory.

The Rev. Conrad Harkins is curious, too. For more than a decade, he has worked tirelessly to see that five Spanish missionaries killed by Indians on the Georgia coast in 1597 are recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as martyrs and, perhaps in time, as saints.

It is not known for sure if these the relics are of a missionary or not, but scientists are working on that using forensics, DNA analysis “and some luck.” 

The skull was unearthed in the early 1900s at the site of a former Spanish mission near Darien, and 20 years after the Diocese of Savannah proposed beatification for the “Georgia martyrs.” 

“The case for beatification of the Georgia martyrs is a historical one, and it will be accepted or rejected by the Vatican on the basis of the historical record,” Harkins says.

Things have moved swifty it seems, as a “portfolio of Spanish records and the reports of Franciscan friars documenting the missionaries’ martyrdom — compiled, notarized and copied in triplicate — is now ready for submission to a Vatican tribunal this year.”  As the article points out, physical remains of the missionaries are not required for beatification. 

For the rest of this story, click here.


  1. For more information on the early Spanish missions in Georgia, go to:


    Other relevant links appear there.

    You’ll find their story fascinating!

    Comment by Paul Thigpen — August 29, 2006 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks Paul for including more information on this subject. JM

    Comment by John Maass — August 30, 2006 @ 12:39 am | Reply

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