San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
June 3, 1770
California’s mission history is captured at the Carmel Mission. Father Junipero Serra, the patriarch of the mission system, used it as his headquarters. It was his favorite, and the Blessed Serra is interred beneath the Chapel floor.
Originally, this northernmost mission was located in Monterey, California’s first capital. It was relocated to its present location where better agricultural land was in abundance. The original Monterey chapel is now the San Carlos Cathedral.
Restoration throughout the five acres has been extensive and brings to life the story of this bygone time. Walk through the buildings and you’ll find five distinct museums filled with art, original and period artifacts, interpretive displays and family keepsakes from the mission era. A highlight is the wing dedicated to Father Serra which holds the cell in which he lived, worked and died.
The splendid stone church is made of native sandstone, quarried from the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains, and is built on the site of the first adobe chapel. It is a designated Basilica because of its historical and artistic importance; the Moorish dome and parabolic ceiling are unique architectural features only found here. The bell tower dome is original; many of the nine melodious bells are also original.
At it’s peak, the mission served close to 1,000 people. Everything needed to thrive had to be made or grown on-site. The Costanoan and the Esselen tribes were instrumental in the Mission’s success and tended crops and livestock in concert with the padres. Wheat, barley, corn, beans and a variety of vegetables were grown and sheep and cattle roamed nearby. It was a self-contained community.