Common Terms of the California Missions

Many words and phrases used during the California mission era are still in use . These include architectural and military terms, religious words and phrases, Native American terms and place names, and of course, the Spanish words for many aspects of everyday life. This glossary provides a handy single reference of these California Mission terms.

 

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | V | W | Y | Z
Caballero

Man on horseback.

Cabo

Corporal

Californios

Native-born Californians of full or partial Hispanic heritage.

Calinche

A drink made from the fruit of the prickly pear or tuna cactus.

Campanario

Bell tower. Can be free standing or attached.

Campo Santo

Literally means “Holy Field.” The cemetery.

Canaliño

A name used by European explorers and settlers to identify Chumash peoples who lived in the Santa Barbara Channel area. The word is also used today by some researchers to refer to the group of Native Americans who lived in the Channel area thousands of years ago and who are probably ancestors of the Chumash.

Candeleros

Candlesticks in Spanish.

Cañón

Spanish for Canyon

Cantor

A singer in church services, which was often a neophyte Indian.

Capilla

A chapel.

Carreta

Wooden, two-wheeled cart, pulled by oxen. The cart was the principal mode of transporting items in Alta California.

Casa-reales

Government buildings, town hall.

Castas

People of mixed blood, as opposed to Spanish and Indians.

Cemetery

The formal burial grounds for the remains of the dead. Most of the mission cemeteries were sited adjacent to the mission church.

Cenotaph

A monument erected to honor someone whose mortal remains are elsewhere.

Cenotaph

A monument built to honor people whose remains are buried elsewhere elsewhere.

Chancel

The area in a church containing the altar and seats for the clergy.

Channel Indians

The natives living in the Santa Barbara area.

Cocinero

A cook, probably for the priest, since this was normally not a normal male occupation within the Indian population.

Colaterales

The side altars in a church.

Comissionado

A deputy or commissioner. As normally used in California, he was a non-commissioned officer serving on detached duty as a magistrate of a pueblo or villa.

Commandante

Military commander.

Commissary Prefect

An office established in California in 1812 to assist the Father President in the supervision of missionaries and liaison with the territorial government.

Compound

A cluster of connected buildings. Most missions were built as a quadrangle including a church, padre’s quarters and workshops, with native quarters, warehouses and other buildings surrounding the central compound.

Convento

The padre’s residence in the mission complex.

Corridor

A long walkway or gallery around the inner patio. These were usually arched or colonnaded.

Crioles

Spaniards born in the New World.

Cuera

Protective several-ply leather jacket, usually sleeveless and of thigh length.

Cupola

A small rounded structure built on top of a roof or bell tower.