Tag Archive | Junípero Serra

California Road Trip: Mission San Carlos de Borroméo de Río Carmelo

The next day was our last day in Monterey.  We made our way over to the Mission San Carlos de Borroméo de Río Carmelo (the Carmel Mission).  There are 21 missions in California, and at some point I’m going to visit all 21 of them.  Before this trip, I’ve been to four: Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura), Mission Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara), Mission San Francisco Solano (Sonoma), and Mission Santa Ines (Solvang); plus one in Tucson, Arizona – now I added a fifth to the list!

The Carmel Mission was founded in 1770 – by Junípero Serra – the first site of the mission was in the town of Monterey.  However, due to poor soil and some power struggles with the Presidio of Monterey, the mission was moved to its present location a year later.  Junípero Serra founded nine of the 21 missions in California, with this one being the second (after San Diego).  This was also his favorite – where he established his headquarters.

Mission San Carlos de Borroméo de Río Carmelo - Founded 1770 - This Church Built 1794

Mission San Carlos de Borroméo de Río Carmelo – Founded 1770 – This Church Built 1794

The first church and dwellings were made of wood, with the adobe structures built later.  The first years were hard and they relied on the Indians for supplies.  But eventually, they had a steady supply of labor – although it is questionable whether their methods of getting the Indians to stick around were very humane.  At the height of the mission, there were 927 Indians working and living at the mission.  Junípero Serra came and went, founding other missions along the way, and baptizing and confirming Indians throughout the region (over 4,000 Indians were baptized at Carmel alone).  Serra died at the age of 71 (that’s a long life as an adventurer out in the wilderness!) at the Carmel Mission and at his request, was buried beneath the main altar of the church.

The present church was constructed in 1794 on the site of the original church (Serra is still buried in front of the altar).  The curved walls were covered with a lime plaster made from burnt sea shells, and the floor was made from tile.  The tower is a Moorish design and has nine bells.  It is the only one of the California Missions that has its original bell tower dome.

The Main Altar at the Carmel Mission

The Main Altar at the Carmel Mission

In 1834, the Indian population had dwindled, and the Mission was secularized, which means that it became a conventional parish church.  The mission lands were transferred to Hispanic settlers and gradually the church fell into ruin.  When the United States took control of California, they also took control of all of the missions, but the property was returned to the Catholic Church in 1859 – the church was already in ruins by this time.  Restoration was begun in 1884, by putting a new roof on the Mission.  Eventually restoration was completed and you have the grand structure you see today.

This is Believed to be the First Confessional at the Mission - Constructed from an 18th Century Packing Crate

This is Believed to be the First Confessional at the Mission – Constructed from an 18th Century Packing Crate

In 1987, Pope Jean Paul II visited the Mission San Carlos de Borroméo de Río Carmelo, and prayed inside the Church.  In 1988 Serra was beatified by Jean Paul II.  Beatification is the third of four steps in the canonization process, which is the process to sainthood.  During the process, his treatment of the Indians was debated – at this point Serra has not gone through the last step to sainthood, but I have no idea if that is a result of his treatment of the Indians.  The church today remains an active parish church with a school for children aged kindergarten to 8th grade.

The interior of the church is beautiful, and we took a while to just take it all in.  There is a display before you enter the church of the vestments that Serra wore during his lifetime; the garments are in amazing condition and the color and detail are vivid and intricate.  There is also an icon of the Virgin Mary in the church that is over 300 years old.  The Mission also has a museum showing the rooms that the priests lived in, the mission library and the books it contained, and information about how life was lived on a mission property.  It is a self-guided tour, so you can take as much time as you would like exploring the different rooms and exhibits.

Virgin Mary Icon - This is Where Jean Paul II Prayed

Virgin Mary Icon – This is Where Jean Paul II Prayed

A Couple of the Vestments that Serra Wore

A Couple of the Vestments that Serra Wore

The mission is designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, but the church is maintained entirely by private funds.  It is well worth the visit to see a mission that is almost 250 years old!

California Road Trip: Monterey State Historic Park

On our way back to the hotel after visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we took a look around a few of the buildings of the Monterey State Historic Park.  A little history lesson: Monterey was first established in 1770 by Father Junípero Serra and explorer Gaspar de Portolà.  Spain had begun colonizing Alta California, in 1769, and the San Carlos Borromeo Mission de Monterey followed a year later.  When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Monterey came under Mexican rule.  I didn’t know it then, but Monterey was actually California’s earliest capital city (from 1777 to 1846 – under both Spain and Mexico) and the site of the state’s first constitutional convention.  Monterey changed hands again in 1846 during the Mexican-American War, and once it was in American hands, the capital was moved away from Monterey.

Pacific House Museum - Built 1847 - Adobe Architectural Style

Pacific House Museum – Built 1847 – Adobe Architectural Style

The Monterey State Historic Park consists of several buildings located throughout the downtown area, built at various times in the 1800s.  Most are only open on the weekends, so Jon and I didn’t get to tour the inside of any of them, but we were able to check out the outside of the Custom House, the Pacific House (which contains the museum) and the Cooper-Molera Adobe.  The Custom House is the first government building in California, built in 1827, and it is the First California Historic Landmark!

Monterey Custom House - Built 1827 - Adobe Architectural Style

Monterey Custom House – Built 1827 – Adobe Architectural Style

We were able to stop in at the Cooper-Molera Adobe garden and gift shop.  They have one room of the home open daily, so you can get a little of the feel of the home.  One of the outbuildings contains information on the families that lived there. This adobe was built in 1823 by Captain John Rogers Cooper, a New Englander who sailed to Monterey on a trading mission.  He met and married a member of one of California’s most well-connected Mexican families.  After John Rogers Cooper’s death, he left the home and property to his wife, and it was eventually passed down to Cooper’s granddaughter Frances Molera.

Upon Frances Molera’s death in 1968, the property was willed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who leases it to the California Park System.  It has been restored and furnished with period furnishings left by the family.  The room that we were able to visit contained several beautiful pieces from the late 19th century – it would be interesting to see the rest of the home!

Historic Barn at the Cooper-Molera Adobe

Historic Barn at the Cooper-Molera Adobe

Well at the Cooper-Molera Adobe

Well at the Cooper-Molera Adobe

At the Cooper-Molera Adobe (or the other Monterey SHP buildings when they are open) you can pick up a brochure detailing a walking tour around town showing the locations of the twelve buildings of the Monterey State Historic Park, as well as several other historic buildings (55 in all) in Monterey.  The route is about two miles, and there are little medallions embedded into the sidewalk that show the route.  Touring these homes and buildings will certainly be on my list for my next trip to Monterey!