One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

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Mission Carmel, a saint's favorite

The 21 California missions were the first permanent European settlements to be founded on the West coast, beginning in 1769.  

Though the founding date is June 3, 1770, the original location was the cathedral San Carlos Borromeo de Monterey.  The current mission was relocated to Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1771.  The second of the Alta California missions, it was named for Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Italy. It was the site of the first Christian confirmation in Alta California.  

It was the headquarters of the original upper Las Californias Province missions headed by Father JunĂ­pero Serra from 1770 until his death in 1784.  It was his favorite mission.  He is buried beneath the chapel floor.

Farming was not very productive and for several years the mission was dependent upon the arrival of supply ships.  The Esselen and Ohlone Indians who lived near the mission were taken in and trained as plowmen, shepherds, cattle herders, blacksmiths, and carpenters. They made the adobe bricks, roof tiles and tools needed to build the mission. In the beginning, the mission relied on bear meat from Mission San Antonio de Padua and supplies brought by ship from Mission San Diego de Alcalá. In 1794, the population reached its peak of 927, but by 1823 the total had dwindled to 381. 

The mission was in ruins when the Roman Catholic Church regained control of it in 1863. It has since been rebuilt to its original appearance.

The Basilica Church, a registered National Historic Landmark, is the centerpiece of the Mission. The Basilica has a catenary ceiling, thirty foot reredos and 5 foot thick walls. The Mission’s collection of Spanish Colonial Liturgical Art and Artifacts are displayed through the church. The Harry Downie Museum, located in the forecourt to the Basilica, houses interpretive displays and artifacts devoted to telling the restoration story of the Mission and the significance of Harry Downie’s efforts in the restoration. Adjacent to the Basilica, the Jo Mora Chapel Gallery houses the elaborate Serra Memorial Cenotaph, sculpted in 1924 by Jo Mora, of travertine marble and bronze. This museum is also the home to an art exhibit which changes periodically. 

 In Convento Museum is the cell used by Blessed Junipero Serra and where he died in 1784. Learn more about the missions and other great places to visit along the coast in “Along the King’s Road: A Guide to Touring the California Missions.”  Get your copy here!

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