Mayor Brown to Celebrate 450 Years of French History

March 19, 2012  
Mayor Brown and Honorary Council of France, Francoise Cloc.

Historic activities to take place on May 1

Mayor Alvin Brown, Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve Chief of Resource Education Brian Loadholtz, Jacksonville Historical Society Director Emily Lisska, Honorary French Counsel Francois Kloc and partners announced today the commemoration activities for the May 1, 2012 Sesquiquadricentennial, the 450th anniversary of French Huguenot Captain Jean Ribault’s arrival at the St. Johns River, which he named the River of May, and which we still reference today with “Mayport.”

On May 1, 1562, Jean Ribault sailed into what is now known as the St. Johns River and met with the indigenous, Mocama-speaking Timucua Indians on the north side of the river and claimed the land for France by placing a stone onto the ground in her honor.
The website is designed to highlight the many activities taking place around this significant event. The site also provides a listing of historical resources and links to information pertaining to Ribault’s arrival in 1562 that will help inform and educate readers about our unique history.
“Jacksonville is blessed with a rich cultural heritage that serves as the roots of our identity while enriching the greater story of how modern-day America began. Over four and a half centuries, the people of Northeast Florida have established a firm foundation for Jacksonville to continue developing into future years as a vibrant hub for business and a destination for travelers,” said Mayor Alvin Brown. “I encourage everyone in Jacksonville to embrace this opportunity to learn more about our journey as a society and our unique posture as one of America’s oldest cities.”
This community partnership consists of many celebrations and observances taking place to recognize this significant event. A preliminary list of activities planned includes:
  • The National Park Service will rededicate the Ribault monument at Ft. Caroline National Memorial
  • The installation of the restored 30-foot mural painted by artist Lee Adams that depicts Ribault’s Landing at the Main Library downtown
  • The French navy will be mooring two goelettes downtown, the Etoile and Belle Poule, for school and public tours
  • The Consul General of France, Gael de Maisonneuve, and other French dignitaries will participate
  • Lectures at the Jacksonville Historical Society
  • “French Perspective” luncheon at the Ribault Club on Fort George Island
  • Students from Jacksonville’s public and private schools will be participating in related events
In addition, restaurants and retailers throughout Jacksonville are invited to join in the festivities by offering special promotions and dishes in honor of this occasion with French-themed dining options during Jacksonville French week, from Thursday, April 26 – Sunday, May 6. Visit Jacksonville will make a section of their website available for restaurants and retailers who wish to participate in this historic occasion at
“Ring for Ribault” will also occur on May 1. This is a unified 45-second ship horn sounding and a 4.5 minute church bell ringing at noon up the length of the entire St. Johns River and surrounding communities.
A maritime “Welcome on the Water” will also take place to welcome the two French navy sailing ships, the Etoile and the Belle Poule, to Jacksonville. The ships are scheduled to depart Mayport Naval Station the morning of Monday, April 30 and sail up the St. Johns River to moor near the Jacksonville Landing. The goal is to welcome the tall ships in grand style; Fort Caroline is planning a cannon salute as they pass the National Park and other ships along the river are encouraged to “wave them in” and for boats of all sizes to “sound their horns” as the flotilla makes its way to Downtown Jacksonville.
With the passage of HR 9099, the Florida State Legislature also recognizes May 1, 2012 as “French Day in Honor of Jean Ribault” to mark 450 years of French presence in Florida. This observance also ushers in VIVA FLORIDA 500, a multi-year statewide commemoration of the beginning of European exploration of Florida.
Bienvenue à Jacksonville!