Carmel Mission

It was Sunday and time for Mass. I made it to the Carmel Mission and managed to find a good parking spot behind the Mission. I was a little concerned for two reasons:
1) The parking lot I saw when I visited with Joan was quite small and
2) I drive the world’s largest truck.

I rejoiced in my good parking fortune and found a seat in the church.

I was quite taken with the ambo that the cantor and readers used. The stairs to access it were hidden in the wall.

The Mission was originally founded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan priest who founded the first nine of the 21 missions in what was then called Alta California in New Spain. He died at the mission in 1784. He is buried under the sanctuary floor of the mission.

The mission buildings and its lands were secularized by the Mexican government in 1833. The mission had fallen into disrepair by the middle of the century.

This is a photo of the mission in 1852, after the roof collapsed. It was partially restored in 1884.

Here is an image of it after its first restoration. According to my research, (Wikipedia) this is the only one of the California Missions to have its original bell tower dome.

You can see the bell tower dome in this photo that I took from the courtyard on the left side.

In 1931, Harry Downie was appointed as the curator in charge of mission restoration, a task the dedicated the rest of his life.

Here is a shot of the roof being worked on in the 1930s.

This 1937 photo documents the progress of the restoration.

In addition to restoring the church, many of the rooms the priests used have been restored to their 18th and 19th century condition.

This is a priest’s cell from about 1810.

Here is the kitchen.

This was the grand sala. I am sure we would call this a living room.

This was Junipero Serra’s cell. If this is an accurate restoration, this is where he died on August 28, 1784.

Junipero Serra was canonized by Pope Francis on September 23, 2015. This has not been without controversy. Some Native Americans criticize Serra’s treatment of their ancestors and associate him with the suppression of their culture.

I had assumed that this was a cenotaph that honored Junipero Serra and that he was interred elsewhere. I didn’t realize when I was there that he was actually buried under the sanctuary floor. If I had, I would have visited the site.

By Nheyob – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here’s a photo that I borrowed from Wikipedia. You will notice that I have attributed the source. The other photos in this post that are from the 1800s and early 1900s were taken from signs at the mission.

There are other burials n the graveyard at the right side of the sanitary. You will notice that the graves are outlined with abalone shells.

There was a sign that indicated that these are symbolic grave sites, representing the many hundreds of indigenous people buried in this graveyard and beyond.

I felt very welcome at the mission. They invited all of us to take part in coffee and donuts after mass, and I was happy to join them.

More than a historic site, this is an active parish, and I wish it many more years of service and fellowship.