Skip to main content

A Brief History of Our Diocese

The earliest Catholic presence in what is now the State of Georgia began with the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 16th century. For many years the Franciscans maintained a network of mission stations which stretched from St. Augustine to the Savannah River.

 

The arrival of the British brought an end to the period of Spanish presence. No Catholics were permitted in the new colony of Georgia. After the Revolutionary War small groups moved into the area of Locust Grove, near Augusta, and to Savannah, where the church of St. John the Baptist was established.

Savannah belonged first to the Diocese of Baltimore, and later to the Diocese of Charleston. In 1850 the numbers of Catholics had grown, and a new Diocese of Savannah was formed, taking in the entire State of Georgia and a large part of the State of Florida.

Immigration from Europe and the movement of population from the northern United States southward swelled the Catholic population over the years. In January 1937, the name of the diocese was changed to the Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta. It was re-designated with its original name on November 8, 1956, when the northern part of the state became a separate diocese. The Diocese was re-named Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta in 1937, with a cathedral in each city. In 1956 the division became permanent, with Atlanta (later an Archdiocese) taking the northern part of the State and Savannah taking the southern half.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, dedicated in 1876, is the seat of the Diocese of Savannah.

 

One Faith, One Family: Diocese of Savannah 1850–2000

The story of the first 150 years of the Diocese of Savannah. Savor the stories that make up our heritage!

ISBN 0-9654732-8-7
344 pgs.

Edited by Mary Jane BeVard
Designed by Daniel J. J. Cameron

Compiled by
Mrs. Gillian Brown
Fr. Douglas K. Clark, STL
Dr. David T. Gleeson
Sr. Mary Faith McKean, RSM

Order forms must be received by February 14, 2020.

Please type your full name.

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid email address.

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Catholic Cemetery in Savannah: History and Preservation

The Catholic Cemetery in Savannah was opened on August 2, 1853 by Bishop Francis X. Gartland, after he was unable to persuade the City Fathers to set aside a specially consecrated Catholic section in the new Laurel Grove Cemetery. He purchased eight and one-third acres from the Rhinehart Plantation for the sum of $833.00. After the Cemetery opened in 1853, additional remains were exhumed from Colonial Park Cemetery and reburied in what is now the Old Section. Many stones and markers were also transferred around this time. Walking through the Cemetery today you will see stones that predate its existence.

Savannah's Catholic Cemetery served as the encampment area for some General Sherman's troops after the surrender of the city on November 23, 1864. Sherman ordered fortifications to be built, a project which removed cemetery fences, leaving it open to vandalism and theft. During this time many graves were desecrated by troops. The Sisters of Mercy, with the assistance of local women, rescued the remains of two bishops, two priests, and four sisters. It was only in 1867, after Bishop Augustin Verot urged President Andrew Johnson and Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War) to restore the Cemetery to its former state, that they were reinterred.

More land was added to the first purchase, expanding the size of the Cemetery. The last addition was the Holy Cross portion in the rear of Hillcrest Abby East Cemetery, purchased by Bishop Gerald P. O'Hara in 1934.

FaLang translation system by Faboba