Overview of Monterey Bay Area Missions

by Gary S. Breschini, Ph.D.

This page contains a very brief overview of each of the Monterey Bay area missions. More details can be found within this website by following the link in the title of each section. Links outside of this website are given following the text in each section.

Link to a nice California Missions website.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo (Carmelo), June 3, 1770

Mission San Carlos Borromeo, second of the 21 California's 21 coastal missions, was founded on June 3, 1770 by Father Junípero Serra. The original location was at the presidio, located "two gunshots from the beach" and adjacent to Lake El Estero in Monterey. That location is now the site of the San Carlos Cathedral.

By the summer of 1771, Serra was already working in the Carmel Valley on a new location for the mission. The first mass was held at that location on August 24, 1771, and Serra officially moved into the newly constructed buildings on December 24, 1771.

Bicycle tour: Carmel Mission

Mission San Antonio de Padua, July 14, 1771

San Antonio was the third California mission. It was founded by Junípero Serra in the San Antonio Valley at a place noted by the Portolá expedition. It was one of the most successful missions, and is the only one still in what is close to an original setting.

Bicycle tour: Mission San Antonio

Mission Santa Cruz, August 28, 1791

Father Lausen, who led the missionary system following Father Serra's death, raised the cross on August 28, 1791 on where Mission Santa Cruz, or "Holy Cross," was to be built. On September 25, 1791, the Mission Santa Cruz was formally founded as the 12th California Mission.

Mission Santa Cruz is known as "the hard luck mission." The first hard luck that the Mission suffered came in the form of floods. The original Santa Cruz Mission was located on the banks of the San Lorenzo River near what is now downtown Santa Cruz. This was a perfect location because the river produced such rich, fertile soil for growing food. In fact extra fruits and vegetables from mission's fields sometimes helped feed the people at Mission San Carlos Borromeo. No one predicted that heavy rains would cause the river to swell and flood the mission twice. The second flood forced the padres to rebuild the mission on a hill overlooking the city.

Bicycle tour: Mission Santa Cruz

Mission Soledad, October 9, 1791

Mission Nuestra Señora Dolorosísima de la Soledad, thirteenth in the chain of Alta California missions, was established on October 9, 1791, at the site of an Esselen Indian village recorded by Pedro Font as Chuttusgelis. A temporary church was constructed in 1791 shortly after its founding, and the first annual report was issued in 1794.

Mission San Juan Bautista, June 24, 1797

The site of Mission San Juan Bautista was chosen for founding of the sixteenth mission on June 24, 1797, because it promised an "abundant harvest of souls" in the fertile San Juan Valley. From 1803 to 1812 the resident Indians labored at construction of the quadrangle complex, which included a 190 foot long church and a beautiful corridor of 20 arches, all constructed of fired adobe brick. Mission teachings continued under Father Tapis from 1812 to 1825, while the mission gained a highly regarded reputation for the quality of neophyte education and Padre Tapis' diplomacy in dealing with government officials and military officers living at San Juan Bautista.

Tour of the Mission

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