St. Photios Cross
The St. Photios Shrine Cross
Kathleen Deegan, lead archaeologist at the University of Florida dig at the Avero House, found the keylike cross that would bear the name, the St. Photios Cross. This relic symbolizes the religious faith of the first large colony of Greek Orthodox Christians to settle in the New World.
In 1768, over 500 immigrants left Greece, and under the British Indentured Servitude Act, founded a colony seventy-five miles south of St. Augustine which entrepreneur Dr. Andrew Turnbull named “New Smyrna”. Instead of finding the freedom and opportunity they had sought, they experienced cruel treatment, disease and death. After nine years of virtual slavery, the remaining settlers abandoned the New Smyrna colony and sought refuge in St. Augustine. Here they found justice and new hope.
Governor Patrick Tonyn granted colonists freedom by releasing them from their contracts. He gave them five shillings, and a place to stay – the Avero House. This sanctuary began as their refuge and continued to be their house of worship for over ten years. It is restored in detail to the original structure; it is a major part of the St. Photios Shrine.
The Shrine commemorates the memory of these first Greek Orthodox colonists and was named after one of the great patriarchs of the Orthodox Church, St. Photios the Great (820-891).
The St. Photios Cross was sanctified in the Chapel of St. Paul in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.