Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Missions

All California 4th graders learn about the California missions. I would almost bet that all 4th graders who live anywhere near the California coast visit at least one mission on a field trip. I know that within two hours from my house, there are three. Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, and Mission San Luis Rey are all within reach for a day trip. 

I have written about the missions on another site so I am not going to reinvent the wheel. I have simply pulled my list from there so you can see what’s available in your area or like us, plan a trip to see them all.

If you plan to follow the trail, it is marked by bronze bells that were placed in 1920's. The route called the El Camino Real (The King’s Highway) runs for 650 miles. 

I must not have been a good student in the 4th grade because I learned something when my grandson went on his Mission field trip. All of the Missions are a one-day horseback ride from each other. I always thought that they rode their horses to the next location, stopped and built a mission and then moved forward. They built the first Mission in San Diego. BTW, it is quite beautiful and well worth a visit. The second Mission was built in Carmel, which is 444 miles away. It took 54 years to build 12 Missions between them. 

Many of these Missions are still standing. Many have been restored. Disaster lurked all around them. There were fires, earthquakes, and even a tidal wave. They survived Indian insurrections and the pirate Bouchard. While these Mission were built to share the faith of the Jesuits who brought their religion to California, the Missions had a greater part in the growth of the state. Each one is a treasure.  

Sorry this is a long post but there are 21 missions.

Founded 1769 – 1st mission
San Diego de Alcala, is tucked away is the hills in the middle of San Diego. The freeway is nearby but the mission seems to be lost in time. California’s first historic cemetery is located there.

Founded June 13, 1798 – 18th mission
Considered the most architecturally beautiful of all the missions, it is called the “King of the Missions”. California’s first Pepper Tree still grows there. The Asistencia (sub-mission), San Antonio de Pala founded in 1816, in Pala, CA., is still active.

Founded November 1, 1776 – 7th mission
Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded October 30, 1775 but due to an Indian uprising in San Diego, the mission bells were buried for safety and the group returned to San Diego. They returned a year later, digging up the bells and re-founded the mission. In 1812, an earthquake destroyed the church killing 40 natives as they worshiped. The church is still in ruins. Each year on March 19th, the cliff swallows return from Argentina. This is my favorite Mission. 

The flowers at Mission San Juan Capistrano never fail to inspire.

Our child's 4th grade field trip where they learned to make adobe bricks. Mission San Juan Capistrano has a great program for children. BTW, the boys loved that adobe is made from clay, water, straw, and manure. The girls...not so much.

Founded September 8, 1771 – 4th mission
The Mission San Gabriel is different from the other missions as it is a fortress with five-foot thick walls. It is nine miles east of Los Angeles. The mission has a treasury of ancient artifacts. It was where I went for my 4th grade field trip more than 50 years ago.

Founded March 31, 1782 – 9th mission and the last founded by Father Serra
This mission suffered multiple earthquakes and a tidal wave. It has been burned to the ground and plundered by the pirate. It was restored in 1957 is a vital part of downtown Ventura.

Founded September 8, 1797 – 17th mission
California’s largest freestanding adobe is here. The mission was destroyed by the 1812 earthquake and abandoned until the 1940’s. In 1971, the buildings were damaged by an earthquake and were not completely repaired until 1974.

Founded December 4, 1786 – 10th mission
The church was destroyed in the 1925 earthquake but has been restored. The mission sits on a hill overlooking the city and the ocean. Part of the city’s water system comes from the original mission’s water works.

Founded September 17, 1804 – 19th mission
Mission Santa Ines managed to survive all the earthquakes. It is inland in the town of Solvang, known for its Danish population. The gardens at the mission are maintained as they were when the mission was new.

Founded December 8, 1787 – 11th mission
Mission La Purisima Conception is a California State Park. Docents provide tours and demonstrate the trades and the ways of the mission. The gardens are a collection of all the plants from the early missions.  

Founded September 1, 1772 – 5th mission
This mission was the first to use tile on the roof to stop the Indians from setting the thatched roof on fire with flaming arrows. This mission also fell into disrepair and was restored during the 1930’s.

Founded July 25, 1797 – 16th mission
The painted walls and ceilings are the best preserved of all the missions. However, disaster struck. On December 22, 2003, a 6.5 earthquake hit the area. It was centered 3.5 miles from the mission. All the buildings were closed to the public until October 2, 2009 when the mission reopened.  

Founded July 14, 1771 – 3rd mission
The mission sits 5 miles back from the main road. It is unchanged and it is believed to be the only one that Father Serra would recognize today. It has been restored to its original condition.

13th mission
The mission restoration started in 1954. There were 3 floods but the third one left the mission in ruins. Today only the chapel and one wing of the quadrangle are completely restored. There is a small museum on the grounds.

Founded June 3, 1770 – 2nd mission
Thought to be Father Serra favorite mission, he is also buried here. The mission was left in ruins for thirty years and the roof on the church was restored in 1884. It was not aesthetically pleasing so in 1930, the church roof was replaced. This is considered the most beautiful of all the missions.

Founded June 24, 1797 – 15th mission
This mission sits directly on the San Andreas Fault and in 1906 the earthquake destroyed the side walls of the church. They were restored in 1976. Music was important at this mission and was taught to the Indians as well. The tiles in the church floors have animal prints created by animals walking on them as the tiles dried outside.

Founded August 29, 1771 – 12th mission
Now a California State Park, the mission was completed in the 1790’s. However, it was damaged by several earthquakes and in 1857, most of it collapsed. The mission was abandoned due to the earthquakes and the neighboring pueblo with thieves and ex-convicts. Today, the Adobe built in 1791 has been restored.

Founded January 12, 1777 – 8th mission
This mission had five different locations. The first, too close to the Guadalupe River was moved to a temporary second site. The third was blessed by Father Serra but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1818. The fourth was another temporary location and the fifth was built in 1822. Not so much luck with this either as it was destroyed by a fire in 1926. However, it was rebuilt in 1928 and became the Santa Clara University.

Founded June 11, 1797 – 14th mission
There is some confusion over the name of this mission. In the early 1900’s a sign was put on one of the mission buildings calling it the "Mission San Jose de Guadalupe”. This name has been used in many publications and is still misused today.

Founded June 29, 1776 – 6th mission
The mission survived the 1906 earthquake and is the oldest building in the city with the only remaining cemetery within the city limits. Commonly referred to as Mission Delores, it is the only intact mission founded by Father Serra.

Founded December 14, 1817 – 20th mission
This was not meant to be a full mission but a branch of the Mission San Francisco de Asis to treat sick Indians. It became so important that it was promoted to a full mission on October 19, 1822. This mission did not fare well. It was torn down in 1870 to be used as firewood. There is a replica of the chapel on the site.

Founded July 4, 1823 – 21st mission
Mission San Francisco Solano is part of the Sonoma State Historic Park. It’s in the Sonoma wine-country and the first vines were planted by the priests. The original church washed away and the restored church was built in 1840. It was the site of the Bear Flag Revolt, the effort to establish California as a republic in 1846.


  1. Just stopping by from the A-Z Challenge list to say "Hi" :)

    Very interesting post honey.

    Good luck with the rest of the challenge.


  2. I like your theme since I live in California. Missions is an excellent topic for M. I think I've been to only 3 of theme. San Diego has been my favorite.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  3. Oh, look at all the linky goodness! I'm bookmarking this post so I can come back and browse the missions at my leisure--we remember what it was like to have leisure time, don't we?!

  4. Had no idea there were so many of them. Nice to know for future trips.

  5. San Juan Capistrano is close to us, it looks beautiful. I think we are going to visit this weekend, hubby has a couple of days off work so we will be doing some sort of exploring. I wished we'd gone for the swallows return, we love birds..maybe next year!

  6. I've studied many California missions and visited quite a few too. This is a marvelous "M" post, Ann:)


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