This Mission in California had to Move from Monterey to Carmel in Order to Survive

 | July 25, 2022

Credit: Nuestro Stories

Throughout the area now known as California, the Spanish monarchy and – by proxy the Catholic church – built 21 missions and four presidios (military settlement) during their spread of colonization. Those missions, all located on or near a stretch of Highway 101, a route that roughly traces El Camino Real. The Carmel Mission was the second mission erected along the coastline. 

Established in 1770 by the infamous Father Junipero Serra and Captain Gaspar de Portola, though the original location of the mission was adjacent to the Monterey Presidio, a little over 6 miles away from the current Carmel location. The Ohlone tribe, the original Indigenous peoples of the land, made life difficult for the soldiers of the presidio and inhabitants of the mission. After a year of being unable to convert the tribe, Serra made the decision to move the mission to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where he felt it would be safer for them. 

The construction of the new mission was a slow-going process. The Carmel Mission was the first of three missions that were built by stone, versus the more common adobe you see used throughout the rest. The use of stone and design of the structure gives the mission a far more Roman Catholic architectural appearance. 

Due to the materials used, laborers, either converted Ohlone tribes members or prisoners forcibly taken during the sweeping battles between the Spanish and tribes during the spread of colonization. They had to quarry sandstone from the Santa Lucia Mountains, which are about 75 miles away from the mission. 

Read more: This Trading Post Is One of the Longest Running Sites

The mission was well-kept and maintained until 1820; it was swept under a wave of sickness caused by the depredation (attack) their crops and food supplies endured. Not long after the sweep of sickness-related-deaths, Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, and the Mexican government had no interest in maintaining the missions. Carmel and the other 20 began to fall into a state of disrepair. Most of the surrounding buildings are no longer in existence – having practically disintegrated. It would be almost 40 years before the American government “returned” the missions to the Catholic church. Though the majority of the buildings fell, the mission itself stayed structurally sound, and underwent a major restoration that took 25 years to complete. 

This Mission in California had to Move from Monterey to Carmel in Order to Survive nuestro stories
Credit: Google Earth

Since its restoration, the Carmel Mission has been open for tourists to wander the structures and grounds that still exist. 

Things to know before you go: 

  • While the mission itself is the original structure, some of the surrounding structures were built during the reconstruction – despite being built to mimic the traditional stylings of the original missions era. 
  • California’s First Library, established in 1770, is on the Carmel Mission’s grounds, and is open to the public. The library contains Junipero Serra’s 400 year old bible. 
  • The mission is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday

Location: Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

Address: 3080 Rio Rd

Visit it here.

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