Santa Elena History

In the mid-16th century, Spain and France competed for control of North America. The Spanish government believed it had exclusive rights to the continent by the blessing of the Catholic Church, and France disagreed. To protect its Atlantic shipping route from English and French privateers, Spain colonized points along the southeastern coast from the Caribbean to the Carolinas. One of these outposts was Santa Elena, the first colonial capital of Spanish Florida. Spanish colonists founded Santa Elena in 1566 on an island in the Port Royal Sound of present-day South Carolina. Both French and Spanish colonists occupied the site during the 16th century. Today, the Charlesfort-Santa Elena site is a National Historic Landmark important for its associations with the 16th century conflict between Spain and France for control of the New World and with officers Spaniard Pedro Menendez de Aviles and Frenchman Jean Ribault. The site is also considered archaeologically significant.