Menéndez de Avilés

Menéndez de Avilés

[me-nen-deth the ah-vee-les]
Menéndez de Avilés, Pedro, 1519-74, Spanish naval officer and colonizer, founder of Saint Augustine, Fla. He went to sea as a youth and so distinguished himself that by the time he was 35 he held the captain generalcy of the Indies fleet, which convoyed treasure ships from the New World to Spain. In 1565, Philip II of Spain charged him with driving the French Huguenots from Fort Caroline and establishing a Spanish colony in Florida. Menéndez's expedition of 11 ships and 500 colonists sailed from Spain and on Aug. 28 entered the harbor he named for St. Augustine. At the mouth of the St. Johns River on Sept. 4 he encountered a French fleet under Jean Ribaut, which he was unable to bring to combat. Menéndez then returned to St. Augustine, where he began to build a fort. Ribaut, hoping to take the Spanish by surprise, sailed to attack them, but his fleet was wrecked in a storm. With Fort Caroline virtually defenseless, Menéndez marched overland and on Sept. 21 killed most of the French there. Ribaut and his men, driven ashore S of St. Augustine, were captured as they tried to reach Fort Caroline by land, and all but a few were slain. The massacres, which aroused France, were later (1568) avenged by Dominique de Gourgues. Part of his mission accomplished, Menéndez went to Cuba for supplies and then explored the Gulf Coast, where he made friendly contacts with the indigenous peoples. Before he returned to Spain (1567) there were Spanish posts on St. Helena Island (S.C.) and on Chesapeake Bay in addition to St. Augustine and San Mateo (Fort Caroline). Although he remained governor of Florida until his death, Menéndez returned only for a brief stay in 1571. The establishment of the Florida colony was due almost wholly to his energy and ability.

An early account is Gonzalo Solís de Merás, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (tr. and ed. by J. T. Connor, 1923, repr. 1964). See also W. Lowery, The Spanish Settlements (1905, repr. 1959); study by A. C. Manucy (1965).

Avilés is the name of the third most important city of Asturias, Spain. It is also the name of the municipality which includes the city, which is one of the smallest in the Principality of Asturias. Its length from north to south is 7.5 km, and from east to west it is 6.25 km, giving a total area of 25.34 km². Its main urban centre occupies the flattest land in the municipality, in a land that belonged to the sea, surrounded by small promontories, all of them having an altitude of less than 140 metres. Situated in the estuary of Avilés, in the Northern Central area of the Asturian coast, west of Peñas Cape, it has an important national seaport and industrial city. It is close to popular beaches such as Salinas.


The area experiences Atlantic, warm summers with both overcast and sunny days. In winter the weather is moderate, with significant rains and wind, although sometimes the cold climate of Asturias results in snowfall at sea level. The temperature is rarely below zero or over 30°C.


The few Prehistoric remnants are important enough to demonstrate that there has been a settlement in the area whose existence is known since the year 905 . The name "Avilés" is thought to come from a local Roman landowner, Abilius.

The first well known document is an endowment of two churches by Asturias King Alfonso III, in 905. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important ports of the Biscay Bay, trading mainly with French ports, the main trade was salt. At this time, it had two nuclei: a fishermen's district, Sabugo, and the aristocratic centre, La Villa, standing each other across a small water inlet at the site of present-day Avilés' main Park. La Villa was surrounded by strong walls, which demonstrated its strategic and commercial importance. In 1479 (on January the 15th) the Catholic Kings granted a free market on each Monday of the year, which still takes place. The importance of the town as a naval centre is supported by the building of ships with wood harvested from nearby forests, and with the participation of local sailors in the conquest of Seville by the Castilian army, which is reflected in Avilés's coat of arms.

It is the birthplace of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a soldier on the army of Felipe II, who explored Florida in the 16th century and founded in 1565 the first European town in what is now the United States, San Agustin (now St. Augustine, Florida). It is also the birthplace of Juan Carreño Miranda, court painter to the king Carlos II.

The estuary, which had been closed to navigation since the early modern era, was partially drained and cleared in the 19th century. The water inlet dividing the place was covered, so that the two nuclei, Sabugo and La Villa, could be joined together. Then the city began to grow outside the medieval wall, which had been demolished in 1818. In the 20th century, there was an enormous growth in population due to the arrival of several large factories to the town. In 1953 were started the first earthworks for the construction of the factory of ENSIDESA, a large steel mill, currently Aceralia (Arcelor); other companies in the area are Cristalería Española, which together with ENDASA, currently Alcoa, transformed Avilés into one of Spain's industrial centres. Nowadays, the city is trying to focus on new industries and recover its antique flavour.


There are several relevant buildings, such as Santo Tomás de Canterbury old church (dating from the 13th century), dedicated to the English saint Thomas of Canterbury, and the church of San Nicolás de Bari, dedicated to Saint Nicholas (also from the 13th century). Their names demonstrate the influence of medieval foreign trade. There are also civil monuments, like the baroque Palacio de Camposagrado, fortified in its north façade against the English pirates.


Its most characteristic cultural event is the Interceltic Festival of Avilés, which takes place on summer, with people coming from Brittany, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Galicia and Asturias itself.

Feast and Traditions

  • The Antroxu (Carnival in Asturian language) which includes the Descenso Fluvial de Galiana (Galiana's River Descent).
  • Feast of the Amagüestu.
  • Feast of the Bollo (the bollo is a traditional roll of bread stuffed with selected cuts of meat).
    • Comida en la Calle (Eat in the Street).
  • Feast of Saint Augustine, Avilés' patron saint.

Parishes of the municipality

Notable people

Sister cities

External links

Search another word or see menéndez de aviléson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature