ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A portion of Charlotte Street in St. Augustine looks like a back alley road. But it's actually sacred ground because of the colonial graves found right underneath the street. Monday those graves were blessed by a priest.
Father Tom Willis of the St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica took a short walk from the church to the site of what was a colonial cemetery. It was recently discovered by archaeologists and volunteers under Charlotte Street.
Archaeological volunteer Janet Jordan said, "It's not just a messy road. We haven't forgotten that this is a cemetery."
Dodging cars, Father Father Willis, City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt, incoming archaeologist Andrea White, and a handful of archaeological volunteers gathered to pray and bless the people they found during their dig.
"It's the first time I've had to do something in the street like this," Willis said with a smile.
Halbirt said the team found burials of 25 people inside the building, 6 people under the street, and many more bones he believes were also part of burials.
"When you realize you're dealing with people who lived in St. Augustine 300 - 400 years ago, you respect those individuals," he noted Monday.
Archaeologists spent six months on the dig, where they now believe the first Catholic parish church in the U.S. once stood, dating back to the 1500s.
And now, the road is covered back up.
Those who were buried under the road remain in the ground...
And the people -- who came face-to-face with the people of the past -- took a morning to honor them.
"I think it's a completion of these people's burial process," Sister Bernard Joseph said.
"You always honor the dead. It doesn't matter whether they're recently deceased or those who've gone before us much longer," Father Willis said.
Afterwards, archaeology volunteer Pat Balanzategui added, "I hope everybody will see archaeologists don't just come in and tear stuff up and not care. This shows we care and the church cares."
Cares ... for the people buried under a modern city street who helped make St. Augustine what it is today.
"By blessing them you are recognizing the sacrifices they made here in St. Augustine in the colonial era," Halbirt noted.
Some of the bones were indeed removed and they're being studied at the University of Florida. Willis explained that when the research is complete, the bones will be reinterred in a very special place, at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Augustine.