Driving down Highway one on a weekend vacation, my wife and I arrive at a little town by the name of Carmel. We decide to stop and drive around this beautiful town. We stop at the beach for a while and enjoy the beautiful day. After enjoying the day we leave the beach and drive a different way than when we came in to the town earlier that day; we get lost. As we are trying to get back to Highway one we turn on Rio Road and come onto one of the most beautiful buildings we have ever seen.
We decided to get off and look inside; since we saw a parking lot and a couple of cars parked in the parking lot. When we went inside we found out that the beautiful place we were in was the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmel Mission. The Carmel Mission is such a beautiful place that everyone needs to experience at least a trip through the mission in his or her lifetime and it also has a very long past that people need to have a knowledge of in order to really enjoy and thoroughly experience their trip through the mission.
According to the National Park Service website the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo mission was first founded in Monterey and moved to Carmel the next year by father Junipero Serra (NPS par 1). Father Serra was looking for a better location for the mission. Father Serra was looking to get away from the mission in Monterey because it was not an adequate place for cropping; nor were there enough Indians living around Monterey that could help with the everyday chores that needed to be attended to at the Mission. Also, father Serra wanted to get as far as possible from the Monterey military.
The Carmel mission was founded June 3, 1770, by Juniper Serra (Krell, 83). According to Dorothy Krell, the church that now sits in the mission was begun in1973 and finished in 1979; so that means that father Junipero never saw the construction or the finishing of the final of seven different churches built on the mission. Father Serra would become the Father-President of entire chain of missions near and around the Carmel mission during his this time (83). The Carmel mission has not always been in as great shape as it is today.
After the missions began to be secularized, the Carmel mission began to deteriorate little by little. According to Sydney Temple, the author of the book Carmel Mission, the pious fund that supported the missions was seized by government authorities in Mexico City and so the missions were left to the natives that had lived and kept the mission afloat. The responsibility was the natives to keep the mission going (70). For a while the natives found ways to support themselves, the natives would trade and sell cow hide with the ships that came in to the California ports.
After the second and final secularization of the missions, “the Carmel mission lands were divided, half of the lands were give to the natives and the other half of the lands were sold by Spain to pay off their debt” (Temple 82). After the lands were sold and given to the natives the mission began to transform in to ruins. In1859 the lands were returned to the church. After the lands were returned to the church father Casanova took it into his own hands to begin the revitalization of the mission.
Little by little the mission attracted more and more people to come to the sight of the mission ruins, father Casanova being the bright and witty father he was began to charge tourists “ten cents to visit the Carmel ruins” (Temple 101). According to Temple, the Carmel mission ruins were so intriguing that publishing’s about the Carmel ruins were beginning to show up in a book written by Helen Hunt by the name of Ramona (103). After the publishing’s of the Carmel mission were read by the people of California donations began to flow into bank accounts created to the revitalizing and remodeling of the mission.
The last string pulled that saw the beginning of the complete remodeling of the mission was the fact that father Casanova convinced the Governor of California to lend a monetary hand in the restoration of the mission and this was when the rebirth of the Carmel Mission began well on its way. The Carmel mission is still an active mission today. The Carmel mission has a museum in which anyone can learn firsthand all the history of the Carmel mission. People who visit the mission get to see artifacts from the old Carmel mission.
One feature that makes the Carmel mission so unique is the fact that the grave of the founder, father Junipero Serra is on the actual mission grounds. The cross that was erected in 1771 by father Serra still stands today and is one of the main attractions. According to Carmel mission. org there are daily masses and all the Catholic holidays and rituals are still celebrated in the mission church. A very surprising feature of the Carmel mission is that the mission has a pre-kindergarten to eight-grade school.
Something else that is interesting and rare about the mission is that the mission offers weddings. Inside the mission store tourists will find a the most magnificent crosses, rosaries, candles, jewelery and more. The Carmel mission is a beautiful place and is only a three to four hour drive from the central valley (depends on where you live). Father Pedro Font gave a great description of the Carmel mission when he wrote, “ It is the most beautiful site… because it is so near to the sea and in a country so charming and flower-covered that it is a marvel” (Older 27).
The Carmel Mission can be one stop of many that you can make on a vacation to northern California. The Carmel mission is a huge part of California history and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience such a great piece of Califronia history. There is nothing to lose by visiting the mission, but there is plenty to gain. My own experience while visiting the mission was a splended one. I had never been to a mission before visiting the Carmel mission, I had heard of the missions but never really paid attention or cared much about them.
All my nieveness and clulessness about missions lifted from me after the Carmel mission experience. The beautiful history and stories we can get from visiting th mission is inexplainable and incredible. So far I have visited six of the twenty one missions that are located on California’s El Camino Real and I have made it my personal goal to visit all twenty one missions before my lifetime. This is one personal goal I plan to complete without a doubt! All images come from the Carmelmission. org website