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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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