March 7, 2014
To put the date in perspective, according to the Florida Master File, the structure now known as the O’Reilly House was built circa 1691 during the First Spanish Period here in St. Augustine. And to put the age of the house in perspective, only the fort, Castillo de San Marcos – built of the same tabby and coquina, and around the same time period – is older.
Not only does the house have significant historic value, it is truly a sacred space. Shortly after Fr. Miguel O’Reilly, an Irish priest in the service of the Spanish crown, bought the property in 1785 at the beginning of the Second Spanish Period, it became the parish rectory. And it was in this house, from 1794 to 1802, that Fr. O’Reilly privately taught a student who would go on to become a brilliant educator, author, defender of human and civil rights, and, most notably, a humble priest – Fr. Félix Varela. Fr. Varela, whose cause for sainthood is now before the Holy Father in Rome, is revered as much for his tireless work on behalf of the Irish immigrants in 19th century New York City as for his fight for Cuban independence.
Through his foresight, Fr. O’Reilly was to ensure that the house would continue as a place of spirituality and learning long after his death. He included a clause in his will that left the property to a religious order devoted to education. Since 1866, the guardians of this sacred and historic space have been the Sisters of St. Joseph who were recruited from Le Puy, France by then Bishop of Savannah, Augustin Verot, who would later become the first Bishop of St. Augustine.
We invite you to learn more about the rich history and spiritual significance of the Fr. Miguel O’Reilly House. You can take a virtual tour of the museum; study the house’s five architectural phases; learn more about St. Augustine’s rich and unbroken Catholic tradition dating back to 1565; glance at a comparative timeline of local and world history; and browse a photo gallery that shows the O’Reilly House and other local landmarks, then and now. To learn more about the Museum, click here.
The Father Miguel O'Reilly House Museum is protected by ADT Security.