So, who was Jean Ribault? The legendary Jean Ribault (left) was a French Huguenot naval officer and a colonizer of what is now Jacksonville, Florida (North Florida) and the larger area of the southeastern United States. He was a major figure in the French attempts to colonize Florida and create a religious refuge from the Catholic persecution of Protestant Christian’s (known as Huguenots) in France. During his expeditions to the New World in 1562-1565, he collided with the Spanish (lead by the famous Pedro Menendez) who were also active in colonizing La Florida.
Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles (right) was a Spanish explorer sent by the Catholic king, Philip II of Spain to remove the French Protestant’s from Florida. He set up camp in what is today the city of St. Augustine. Menendez is remembered for personally approving the murder of an estimated 350 French Huguenot’s (including Jean Ribault) after they refused to renounce their Christian faith. This mass murder is remembered as the “Matanza’s Massacre.”