I was on a mission to visit the missions

san rafael mission

I believe that I have a new obsession which is just want I needed. I would like to visit all of the missions in California. I have written about the missions previously so I will quickly share a bit about their history from that blog.

The Spanish settled in California and their Franciscan leader, Father Junipero Serra, had the missions built throughout the state. The majority are built near the 101 Freeway (or the El Camino Real = “The King’s Highway” as the Spanish called the same path) which is in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Missions are a type of church which also had living quarters and they were built between 1769 and 1823. They strategically placed them no more than 30 miles from each other so they could travel between them in one day. I won’t go into the politics of the missions but Fr. Serra and his group attempted to convert the locals to their religion, educate them, ‘civilize’ them, and make them Spanish citizens. Today most of the original structures are not intact but have been rebuilt and there are remnants of the original structures.

Now for a list of the names and locations of the missions:
(Bold are missions that I have visited to date)

1. Basilica San Diego de Alcala, 1769 (San Diego)
2. San Carlos Borreomeo, 1770 (Carmel)
3. San Antonio de Padua, 1771 (Jolon)
4. San Gabriel Arcangel, 1771 (San Gabriel)
5. San Luis Obispo, 1772 (San Luis Obispo)
6. San Francisco de Asis, 1776 (San Francisco)
7. San Juan Capistrano , 1776 (San Juan Capistrano)
8. Santa Clara de Asis, 1777 (Santa Clara)
9. San Buenaventura, 1782 (Ventura)
10. Santa Barbara, 1786 (Santa Barbara)
11. La Purisima Concepcion, 1787 (Lompac)
12. Santa Cruz, 1791 (Santa Cruz)
13. Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, 1791 (Soledad)
14. San Jose, 1777 (San Jose)
15. San Juan Bautista, 1797 (San Juan Bautista)
16. San Miguel Arcangel, 1797 (San Miguel)
17. San Fenando Rey de Espana, 1797 (San Fernando)
18. San Luis Rey de Francia, 1798 (Oceanside)
19. Santa Ines, 1804 (Solvang)
20. San Rafael Arcangel, 1817 (San Rafael)
21. San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, 1823 (Sonoma)

I had a goal before going on vacation to visit at least one new mission. I searched through my closets and found a mission book that I had from my tour guiding days. It highlights the missions with pictures, information, and a map.

mission santa cruz (1)

mission santa cruz (2)

My first opportunity to visit one of the missions happened when we were in Santa Cruz and saw Mission Santa Cruz. That was the day we drove from Monterey over to Santa Cruz. I used my handy phone maps and in just minutes we drove from our hotel to the mission. The mission was situated on a quiet street with a Catholic school and parish around it. There was a little square across the street that had a plaque dedicated to the mission. From the square I took a moment to call my parents and wish them happy Easter before we continued to explore the town.

mission santa clara (1)

portrait (1)

portrait (2)

mission santa clara (2)

mission santa clara (4)

The second mission we visited was in Santa Clara and called Mission Santa Clara de Asis. I was particularly excited to visit The University of Santa Clara with the addition of my friend Lisa and her kids. She has a special connection with the mission as her great grandfather Candelario Rivas actually painted two murals in the mission back in 1931. Now isn’t that incredible! Looking at the murals in person we noticed that they were nailed into the wall. He must have been commissioned to paint them in Los Angeles and then mailed the finished work up to Santa Clara to be added to the church. Another perk to this mission was that I had also never been to the university, where the mission is located, and welcomed the opportunity to show the kids another institute of higher learning. (It is never too early to get the kids thinking about college!!)

golden gate bridge

Mission San Rafael (2)

san rafael church bell

The third mission we visited was in San Rafael (Mission San Rafael Arcangel), about 25 minutes north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was super foggy that day and you could barely see the top of the bridge as we crossed it. This stop was very out of the way since we visited here just before driving back south to Los Angeles. It was a stop well worth the extra 1.5 hours it ultimately took us to leave the limits of San Francisco that afternoon. Approaching the mission with the sun breaking through the clouds I was mistaken and thought that another church on the grounds was the mission. It did seem peculiar to me that it was pink! Closing in on this church I noticed the mission just to its’ right. There was a mass going on and my loud children caused someone to exit the church and close the doors, go figure.

Finishing up our spring break trip I have now visited 11 of the 21 missions of California and saw a 12th mission from the highway (does that count?). I plan on visiting Mission San Miguel Arcangel when I go on a girls’ weekend in June as we will be staying only 7 miles south of the mission. In the near future I hope to visit two more of the missions that are in Southern California, Mission San Luis Rey which is on the way to San Diego and Mission San Gabriel Arcangel which is east of Los Angeles approximately 23 miles from where I live. Close to Santa Barbara, which is 1.5 hours from us, there are two other missions I may attempt to see before the end of the year. For now I am more than half way done on my quest to visit the missions of California.

(day 127)


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