The Missions: Number 13

Father Fermin Lasuen founded Mission Soledad on October 9, 1791, naming it Nuestra Senora de Soledad, “Our Lady of Solitude.”  The site—in a hot, windswept, treeless valley—was chosen solely because it provided a stopping point between the 100-mile journey from Mission San Antonio in the south to Mission Carmel in the north.  Yet few wanted to stay there long, because in summer the weather was hot and dry while freezing cold on winter nights. There were scarcely any Indians in the area to convert to the faith and employ as laborers; and the first two priests assigned there were young men who caused constant agitation. Father Florencio Ibanez, the first to provide consistent leadership, arrived in 1803. He installed an irrigation system and supervised the raising of crops and cattle. Under Father Ibanez’s care, 700 marriages and 2,000 baptisms were performed at this mission, and it prospered for awhile. However, floods in 1824, 1828, and 1832 destroyed the church and chapel, and the mission priests suffered poverty so extreme that Father Vicente Sarria, who replaced Father Ibanez, died of starvation. When Mission Soledad was secularized in 1835, its roof was sold to pay its debt to the Mexican government.  For a few years the property served sequentially as a ranch house, a grocery store, and a restaurant, but by 1846 the roofless walls had crumbled. The reconstructed chapel, a project sponsored by the Native Daughters of the Golden West, was dedicated on October 9, 1955. A copy of the original mission bell, cast in Mexico City, hangs on a wooden beam beside the entrance. Mission Soledad is a functioning Catholic chapel and public museum.

 

 

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