The Missions: Number 4

The fourth of the chain of Franciscan missions in Alta California was founded on the Feast of the Birth of Mary, September 8, 1771, and named San Gabriel Arcángel in honor of the Archangel Gabriel, Holy Prince of Angels. Five years later, when a flash flood destroyed much of the crops and ruined the complex, the mission Continue reading The Missions: Number 4

The Missions: Number 3

Bells hung from oak tree branches, crude small dwellings, and the planting of the first field crops marked the beginnings of the third Franciscan mission in 1771, Mission San Antonio de Padua, named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. Three years later the mission was moved to a place  near a better water source farther up the Los Robles Valley. By the end of 1773 workshops, a small church and dwellings of adobe were in place, augmented by some houses of tulles and wood.  The first marriage in Alta California was celebrated that year, between Juan Maria Ruiz and Margaretta de Cortona. Within eight years, the mission contained a second church structure, store rooms, padre’s quarters, and three more small rooms. San Antonio was the first mission to use tiles as material for roofing. In 1806 the priests constructed a two story, water-powered gristmill. (The millrace and stone masonry of the original mill remain intact; the water wheel and mill house have been restored.)  Over the next several years additional storage facilities, shops for weaving rooms, stables, a carpenter shop, and a tannery were added, and work commenced on the third and final church structure, known as the Great Church.  San Antonio was among the first missions to be secularized, in 1834. By the 1880s, San Antonio de Padua was abandoned; exposure to the weather eventually destroyed all but the walls of the church itself and the row of brick-facade arches along the front corridor.  Restored in the early 20th century, Mission San Antonio today is an active Catholic parish as well as a tourist destination.


The Missions: Number 2

A year after founding Mission San Diego in 1769, Father Junipero Serra, other missionary priests, and soldiers gathered at Monterey Bay to witness the formal ceremony to erect the Holy Cross near the earlier-established Monterey Presidio. This ceremony on June 3, 1770, marked the beginning of the second Franciscan mission, Continue reading The Missions: Number 2

The Missions: Number 1

Two hundred and fifty years after Cortes claimed Mexico and the vast lands north of it for Spain, the Spanish Crown faced a crisis: Russian ships were aggressively nosing about its completely undefended province on the Pacific Coast known as Alta (Upper) California. King Carlos III financed a company of Franciscan Continue reading The Missions: Number 1

Creating California’s Missions

The Catholic priest who is credited with creating California’s coastal missions was born Miguel Jose Serra, on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain. Entering the Franciscan Order at sixteen, he took the baptismal name of Junipero and was soon recognized as a preacher of uncommon power and eloquence. His Continue reading Creating California’s Missions