California Missions

It is in my bucket list to visit every one of the 21 Missions spread along the California coastline from Solano north of San Francisco to San Diego. The Missions are individually beautiful and serene, a photographer’s dream. They are each listed as California Registered Historic Landmarks.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Founded in 1770, the mission was once the headquarters of all California missions, and is a National Historic Landmark.

This is one of the most beautiful places in the world, peaceful and serene. Colourful plants grow in every corner of the garden, and the abundant blooms of a wisteria cascade from the interior wall. Inside the courtyard, a central stone fountain is surrounded with adobe buildings and a bell tower. The adjacent cemetery, Campo Santos Cemetery, is very small and does not contain many gravestones although there are several statues of the Virgin Mary. One stone is inscribed ‘Old Gabriel aged 151 years’. Other small statues are inset into the walls.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission - St. Benedict
St. Benedict

Mission San Diego De Alcala, San Diego

Established in 1769 and known as the Mother of the Missions it is built around courtyards leading into and around the church. Whitewashed adobe walls and red slate roofs contrast perfectly with green foliage resulting in a crisp clean image. Statues of saints sprout out of the vegetation. A bell tower containing five bells is rung to announce every mass.

God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mission San Diego De Alcala
Mission San Diego De Alcala
Mission San Diego De Alcala
Mission San Diego De Alcala

Mission San Jose, Fremont

Mission San Jose was founded on June 11, 1797 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. A fully developed mission, and a self-sustaining village, it was occupied by local natives, a few soldiers, several artisans with families, and one or two priests.

The cemetery is small, and as the gravestones are very old the Mission has requested that visitors do not stray from the paths. Not all the Catholics in the region were Spanish. A few graves are inscribed with French names and a number of Irish. The mission has been pummeled by earthquakes.

Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose

Mission San Francisco Solano, Sonoma

Established on July 4, 1823 it was the 21st Mission in California. An original adobe church once stood in the courtyard. The Mission served the parish of Sonoma until 1881 when the building was sold. Only five rooms of the original Mission remain. The Mission was rebuilt after it was destroyed by the 1907 earthquake.

Mission San Francisco Solano
Mission San Francisco Solano

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, San Luis Obispo

Founded in 1772, it is the only mission with an L shaped church. It stands in its original location in a valley known as the Valley of the Bears.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Rafael, Arcangel, San Rafael

The original Mission was burned to the ground in 1870.  A Parish church was built in 1919 and in 1949 a replica of the original 1817 Mission was built.

Mission San Rafael Arcangel
Mission San Rafael Arcangel

Mission Santa Clara de Asis, Santa Clara

The 1771 Mission is located in the centre of the Santa Clara College campus. It houses the original bells from Spain and is a beautifully maintained, working church. The grounds merge into the university campus and are meticulously manicured.

Mission Santa Clara de Asis
Mission Santa Clara de Asis

Mission San Luis, Rey de Francia, Oceanside

Located on a hill overlooking Oceanside it was founded in 1798. It is the largest of the Missions and was the most prosperous.

Mission San Luis, Rey de Francia
Mission San Luis, Rey de Francia

Mission San Antonio de Padua, Jolon
This Mission is located in Jolon in Monterey County and was founded in 1771. It is famous for its campanario and archway bells.

As a white candle in a holy place
So is the beauty of an aged face. Joseph Campbell

San Diego de Presidia 
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Tertullian

Monterey Presidio, Monterey
As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many. William Bradford

Santa Ysabel, San Diego
Into the earth I go down, go down,
Noting but earth will I be seeing, will I be seeing,
I sink down into the old river-bed, down into the interior. Yuman saying


This posts reflects various types of tragedy.

Evergreen Cemetery, Milton, Ontario, Canada.
Poor Betty was killed on her way home from school by a car.
A little flower of love
That blossomed but to die
Transplanted now above
To bloom with God on high.

Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, California, USA
Created in 1892 this non denominational cemetery stretches for acres. A stone monument is dedicated to the lives lost in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
CA_Cypress Lawn_earthquake (2)

CA_Cypress Lawn_earthquake

CA_Cypress Lawn_earthquake data

Anchor Green at the Harbour, North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland
A red granite Celtic Cross with the inscription: Erected in memory of Catherine Watson of Glasgow, aged 19, who drowned in the East Bay, 27th July 1889 while rescuing a drowning boy. The child was saved, the brave girl taken.’
NBerwick cross

N Berwick_celtic cross
Gone is the face we loved so dear
Silent the voice we loved to hear
Memory is a golden chain
That binds us till we meet again.

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France
The Dikerman family were exterminated in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942 .
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes for the former things are passed away.

Garden City Skyway Bridge Memorial
This monument is in Merrit Park beside the Welland Canal under the Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. It is dedicated to the memory of Conrad Stenzel, Douglas Shand, David McKinley and Gordon Thomas who were killed during a workplace accident whilst working on the Skyway bridge. The four painters fell to their death on June 8, 1993 when the scaffolding upon which they were working collapsed.
The busy world is hushed
The fever of life over and our work done.

Edinburgh Castle Dog Cemetery

There is a small pet cemetery within the walls of the castle, one of only two in Scotland for the faithful companions of the castle’s commanding officers. The small garden out of reach of visitors can only be seen from above, and has been used since Queen Victoria’s reign as a burial place for Regimental mascots and officer’s dogs.

There are approximately two dozen stones visible. Many of the stones are so weathered that the inscriptions are no longer legible.
Edinburgh_Edinburgh Castle_pet

DON pet dog of Sergeant’s 1st battery
MAJOR a police dog
FLORA band pet

Edinburgh_Edinburgh Castle_pet Winkle

1881 JESS Band pet of the Black Watch 42nd Royal Highlanders
1889 YUM YUM
1892 TIM is buried in Guernsey. He travelled with Seaforth Highlanders
1893 DOBBLER travelled with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to such exotic locations as China, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
1911 GYP a Crown ROOM dog.
1935 TINKER General William.
1947 SCAMP A faithful chum of Jack Wilson Paterson.
1980 WINKLE Dear and faithful friend of Lady Gow and the Governor.

Edinburgh_Edinburgh Castle_pet Scamp

Edinburgh Dog Cemetery
Dumb creatures we have cherished here below
Shall give us joyous greeting
When we pass the Golden Gate
Is it folly that I hope it may be so.

A verse written by Robert Burns:
Berkin dugs here lie at rest
The yappin worst, obedient best
Sodgers pets and mascots tae
Still the guard the castle to this day.

Campbellville Burying Ground

McLaren Road North, Campbellville, Ontario, Canada

This pioneer cemetery rests by a river and a railway track,  both lifelines for transportation and industry in Pioneer times. The majority of the gravestones memorialize natives of Scotland, and there is a large number of stones commemorating the Campbell family.

Blogged_McEwin Blogged_McIntyre

Verses from the cemetery
Jesus has called the mother home
Her flesh lies mouldering in the tomb
God grant her offspring may be blest
And  meet her in eternal rest.

And he asked who gathered this flower
And the gardener answered the Master
And his fellow servant held his peace.

El Campo Santo

El Campo Santo Cemetery, San Diego Old Town, CA, USA

A small cemetery of rogues, thieves and unknown persons tucked away in the Old Town on San Diego Avenue is well worth a visit. The oldest and most fragile gravestones are protected by white picket fences. 477 bodies are buried there, and tales of ghostly apparitions have been reported.

The old adobe walled Roman Catholic El Campo Santo Cemetery was established in 1849. Until 1880 it was the burial place for many members of the Old Town’s founding families as well as for a few gamblers and bandits who passed through the town.

Antonio Garra, a chief who led an uprising of the San Luis Rey Indians, was executed at El Campo Santo in front of the open grave he had been forced to dig for himself.

John Stiles
San Diego_Stiles
Sacred to the memory of John Stiles/who came to his death/
from a bullet/from a revolver/It was one of the old fashioned/kind and brass mounted/& such is the Kingdom of Heaven

Jesus 1879
San Diego_Jesus
Died December 1879/Aged 25 years/Excerpt from the Book of the Dead/’December 15, 1879, I have given/Ecclesiatical burial to Jesus Indian/25 years, who died of a blow without/receiving Sacraments. They told me/that he was completely drunk, and/thus I command him to be buried near/the gate of the cemetery’/(signed) Juan Pujol, Priest.

Bill Marshall
Bill Marshall/is not here,/but on the other side/of the wall
San diego_Marshall

Bill Marshall was an American man, a renegade sailor from Providence, Rhode Island who had deserted from a whaling ship in San Diego in 1844. He married the daughter of a local Indian chieftain and lived with the Indians. He took an active part in the Garra Indian uprising in 1851.

Bill and the Indian Juan Verduga were captured and brought back to San Diego to be promptly tried by court martial. They were found guilty and sentenced to hang. The Indian acknowledged his guilt but Marshall insisted he was innocent.

At 2 o’clock in the afternoon of December 13, 1851, a scaffold was erected on the Thomas Whaley property near the old Catholic cemetery, El Camp Santo . The men were placed on a wagon and the ropes adjusted about their necks. The wagon moved on leaving them to strangle to death.

The funeral of Anita Gillis (click on the photo for a larger image)
San diego_Gillis

Oscar Wilde

Pere LaChaise Cemetery, 16 Rue du Repos, Paris, France

This famous Parisian cemetery was named for Pere Francois de La Chaise (1624-1709), the spiritual adviser of King Louis XIV. Steep cobbled avenues lead past grandiose and sometimes dilapidated tombs. Many famous celebrities are buried here, and without a map it would be impossible to find them as the cemetery is extremely large. It is said that each family tried to outdo the sculptures, monuments, tombs and crypts which has led to many spectacular works of art.

Oscar Wilde’s memorial is covered with lipstick kisses. The grease contained in the lipstick seeps into the stone and repeated removal by cleaning is eroding the stone.

Oscar Wilde’s tomb 1900
‘And alien tears will fill for him
Pities long broken arm
For his mourners will be outcast men
And outcasts always mourn.’


DeForrest Pioneer Cemetery

Located at Walker’s Line and Derry Road in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

This is a tiny overgrown cemetery on an incline holding a dozen or more forgotten gravestones dating back to the 1800’s. Most of the inscriptions are illegible due to erosion of the soft stone. The site is believed to be haunted and is regularly visited by Paranormal Societies.

1851 stone:
“While on earth I did remain
Suffered much with grief and pain
But when the Lord tho’t it best
he took me to eternal rest.”


Anatomy of a Cemetery

Did you know that early graves were seldom in the neat rows that we are used to seeing? Burials were haphazard. Families didn’t own plots and burial spaces were often reused. In many burial grounds graves face all four points on the compass. Sometimes a hilly site will have stones facing all four directions.

The north side of the cemetery was considered less desirable and was often the last part of the burying ground to be used. It was frequently set aside for slaves, servants, suicides, ‘Jane Does’ etc.

In cemeteries around the world, the vast majority of graves are oriented so that bodies lie with their heads to the West and their feet to the East. This very old custom appears to originate with the Pagan sun worshippers, but is also attributed to Christians who believe that the final summons to Judgment will come from the East. With their feet pointing toward the east the dead will be ready to rise up and be reborn.

In many Christian traditions, ordained clergy are traditionally buried in the opposite orientation, and their coffins carried likewise, so that at the General Resurrection they may rise facing, and ready to minister to the people.

Montmartre, Paris, France
Montmartre, Paris, France
Holy Cross. Colma, CA, USA
Holy Cross. Colma, CA, USA