The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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The facts on the naming of Florida

Canisius | 09 April, 2006 00:38

I researched the Florida question at the University library. I pored over dictionaries of medieval Latin, medieval Spanish, and contemporary Spanish. I looked at the most recent history of Florida, and poked through a history of Florida written by a crusty old Spaniard in the 1700s. Here is what Dom Gueranger says happened (VI,201):

Our forefathers used to call [Palm Sunday] Pascha Floridum, because the feast of the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is to-day in bud, so to speak, and the faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfill the precept of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it Florida.

Here are the actual facts:

1. In Medieval Latin, pascha floridum does mean Palm Sunday.
2. However, the Spanish term "pascua florida" does not mean Palm Sunday: it means Easter Sunday. My crusty Spanish speaker from the 1700s says the same as contemporary dictionaries on this point.
3. All the very earliest histories of Juan Ponce de Leon's discovery say that it was either on Easter Sunday or during the octave of Easter.

In addition to these facts, it's interesting to note that Dom Gueranger agrees with all modern historical accounts and against my crusty 1700s fellow in dating the discovery of Florida to 1513. My Spanish fellow (and the old Catholic Encyclopedia) date it to 1512. But all sources agree that Florida was sighted on or immediately after March 27th. Now if you calculate the date of Easter for these years, March 27th was not Palm Sunday either in 1512 or in 1513; but in the year Gueranger supports, 1513, March 27th was Easter Sunday!

We may say conclusively, therefore, that both Dom Gueranger and the old Catholic Encyclopedia are mistaken when they say that Florida was named for Palm Sunday. It was named for Easter Sunday, or at least for the Easter octave. It seems to me that the mistake probably arose from the strange linguistic disconnect between the Latin pascha floridum and the Spanish "pascua florida".


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