Frequently Asked Questions

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The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County has inherited commemorative plates of 8 of the California Missions. We would like to have a complete set if there was one. Can you tell me if 21 existed and could we possibly acquire the other 13.

You need to contact an expert on historic collectables. You will need to have photographs of at least a couple of the existing plates (front and back) to send. There was a Los Angeles company, Vernon Kilns, which produced collectable pottery and did have California Mission plates. You might check the back of the plates to see what information is there. In order to fill out the collection (presumably there are at least 21 plates in the set) you will have to work with an antique dealer or go onto eBay. It doesn't look to be terribly expensive.

Searching the web I recently discovered a sketch on your site relevant to some research I am doing on early contact between the Catholic Church and Aboriginal people in Australia. The particular sketch was of a visit by the French explorer, La Perouse, to a Californian mission in 1787 --- the year before he arrived in Australia and subsequently disappeared with his entire expedition in the Pacific. I am seeking information about the following and would appreciate any help you could give:

(a) Is the artist who produced this sketch known and is there any other source of the sketch other than in your collection?

(b)Can the mission depicted in the sketch be identified?

(c) If so, can the Native American tribe be identified?

(d) Can any of the Europeans in the sketch be identified?

(e) Finally, what copyright conditions do I need to meet if I want to use the illustrations in both lectures and (possibly) in a book I am researching?

We can provide some further information on the sketch:

a. The original drawing was done by Gaspard Duché de Vaney, but was lost. A watercolor from this original is attributed to either Tomás de Suria or José Cardero. Most cite Cardero.

b. If you require a high resolution copy of the drawing and an academic source I believe that it is available at the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley (the Robert B. Honeyman Jr. Collection.)

c. The mission in question was San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, the second mission in the chain of missions established by the Spanish in the territory they called Alta California. The mission was founded on June 3, 1770 and initially located at the presidio in Monterey (which became the headquarters of both Alta and Baja Califonria.) In 1771 the mission was relocated a few miles south in the Carmel Valley.

d. The principal Indian linguistic group in the Monterey area was Costanoan, primary the Mutsun tribelet. For details see Costanoan by Richard Levy in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8 (California), pp. 486-495.

e. The principal padre was the (second) Father President of the mission chain, Fr. Fermín Lasuén. I do not have information on the other Europeans.

A day after we answered this question we received the following email: Thank you very much for your very prompt and most helpful reply to my inquiry.

There are several saints given prominent veneration at this mission.

High on the wall of the church is an oil painting of Saint Francisco Solano after whom the mission was named. Francisco Solano was born in Spain of noble parents in 1549. He joined the Franciscan order at the age of 20 and was ordained a priest at age 27. He spent his life as a missionary in Peru and Paraguay. He was noted as a preacher and an accomplished musician (he played the violin). Saint Francis Solano is known as the Apostle of South America. He was canonized in 1726. There is a bulto (carved statue) of San José (Saint Joseph) on the right side of the altar in the chapel and a bulto of Our Lady of Sorrows on the left. There is a bas-relief image of San Juan Bautista on the tabernacle.

Lynn Bremer of the Mission Archive-Library provided the answer. Her research indicates that these precious religious artifacts did not disappear. Ms. Bremer informed Pentacle Press that "What remained of them after the 1925 earthquake, are in the Mission Museum."

"Faith had disappeared before the first photo of the Mission was taken in 1860's. Hope fell apparently during the earthquake, and Charity and St. Barbara were severely damaged and had to be removed. New statues were made (not copies) to take their places."

I recently visited to Mission Carmel and took pictures of some of the artwork. Is there a site I may visit to label who these saints are? Thank you for all your help.

Some of the most notable statues and paintings at Carmel include:

The statuary in the beautiful reredo on the back wall of the sanctuary. The bultos include: Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, San Miguel Arcángel, San Antonio de Padua and Santo Dominic.

There is also a statue of San Carlos Borromeo (with the Holy Spirit carved above) near the top of this reredo.

A bulto of San José is enclosed within an ornate ‘nicho’ along the side wall of the church.

The bulto of Our Lady of Belén (in the old mortuary chapel) is historically very significant as it was brought to California with the founding expedition in 1769.

The painting of Junípero Serra in the Carmel Mission Museum is a copy of the frontispiece engraving from Palou’s 1797 biography.

Regarding sources on saints. http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/indexsnt.htm is a master list of patron saints. A Franciscan supported site http://www.americancatholic.org/ would also be a good one to check as the Franciscans selected most of the art. http://www.catholic.org/saints/faq.phphas extensive lists and some images of saints and angels. A gentleman from Australia has pulled together an easy to navigate site featuring information on saints http://www.catholic-pages.com/dir/saints.asp

That said, I have to express some skepticism on how easy it will be to identify all of your pictures using any master collection of information and images on saints. There are over ten thousand saints so it could be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

You might want to consider scheduling an appointment with the Carmel mission curator or mission museum librarian to help identify the images in your collection.

This precious drawing was the first oil painting done of a California mission. We suggest you contact the Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, which has the original painting in their collection. (http://www.sbmal.org/ ) They can advise you on how to obtain a copy. We would suggest that you consider a print on canvas if this is available.

Response from poster: "Thank you very much for your help with my question on behalf of the San Marino Historical Society. We are able to print a small but good copy with the jpg image you sent. I will tell the Board about the painted copy available through the site you suggest."

We did extensive photographs of that splendid mission in both 2003 and 2004. I am enclosing an image of the hand. To facilitate an appreciation of the hand this was placed by us on a black background. The actual hand is painted on the graying and weather-beaten wall of the mission museum.

I've been to all the missions except two up north. Can you tell me where I can get a print of the beautiful Indian Stations of the Cross paintings that are at Mission San Gabriel? I was surprised there wasn't even a postcard of those unique paintings.

I agree with your assessment of these magnificent paintings. A study of them made in 1997 concluded that they were probably done in the 1820s by more than one artist and could have been based on a set of engravings that Mission San Gabriel had obtained from Mexico in 1771. They were actually painted by Indians from the nearby mission of San Fernando Rey. Donald Francis Toomey, an expert on devotional art, in his excellent book The Spell of California's Spanish Colonial Missions says that the San Gabriel Stations of the Cross are painted using powdered mineral colors mixed with linseed oil and not paint made from flowers and berries, which is a story that is sometimes told. They are painted on unprimed linen canvas. These paintings were exhibited at the 1893 ‘World's Columbus Exposition” in Chicago and later given to Mission San Gabriel by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. I talked with Donald Tooney and he said that Professor Norman Neurerburg published a book that contained half page images of each of the Stations of the Cross paintings. It is entitled The Indian Via Crucis from Mission San Fernando: An Historical Exposition.The photography was done by William B. Dewey. The book is out of print but available at many libraries and at most rare books shops (I found two copies that were available at www.abebooks.com for under $20.00.

Jackie wrote back and said: Thank you for that terrific response. I always heard the paintings were flowers and berry-based! They are truly unique and beautiful.

I know that the mission had a short bell tower because of the fear of earthquakes and that it had 4 bells. I found information about the 4th bell being made of silver but my teacher wants to know where the bells were made and what they were made of. Were they all made of silver? Do you know where they were made? Also, one of the questions is whether the mission was known for producing any special products and if they were sent somewhere else. I know that one of the things the mission was most noted for was its orchestra/choir and that people came from far away to hear them. I know they had a soap factory and tannery, but I think a lot of the missions had that as well. Any suggestions you could give me would be really appreciated. Your site is very informative and fun to read other people’s questions. Some of the questions for my mission report have been quite hard to find out, so I have had to work hard!

I just received your very well written email. I congratulate you on your diligence in preparing your mission report. Let me try to answer your questions and tell you some facts about San José you might want to incorporate into your report.

I believe that three of the four bells at San José are original. I don't have any detailed information about their history but the mission bells were typically made of cast iron, and imported from what the Spanish called New Spain, present day Mexico. There were traces of other minerals in the bells (possibly small amounts of silver) but none were made totally of silver. The original mission church was destroyed in a terrible earthquake in 1868. The bells fell out of the turret that held them. A new wooden church, St. Josephs, was built on the foundation of the ruined mission. Three of the bells were hung in the wooden steeple of that church until 1970s. I believe that the fourth bell was used at another California church and was recast, but ultimately returned to the San José Mission.

St. Josephs was relocated to Burlingame in 1982 to make room for a reconstruction of the original mission. One of the most interesting and original objects in the mission is the baptismal font, which is made of hammered copper on a wooden base. I have checked the books that I have for my research, but I can't find any reference to any totally original products.

San José had one of the largest herds of livestock in the mission chain. In 1832 they had 12,000 head of cattle and 11,000 sheep and these provided most of the product that was sold. For example, the dried hides of the cattle were sold to sea captains who brought them back on their ships to New England to be used to make shoes and other leather products. These cured hides were so popular they were called Yankee Dollars.

One of the most famous Indians in California was a neophyte at San José, named Estanislao. He organized a widespread revolt against the missions. Stanislaus County in California is named after him.

I am sending you several images you might find helpful: a famous early drawing of the mission, done in 1881 by Henry Chapman Ford; a drawing of Fr. Narciso Durán and the mission orchestra done by an artist named Alexander Harmer; and an image of the cattle brand they used at San José. Hope this helps.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was a prominent mission, headquarters of the mission chain during Fr. Serra's life and located near Monterey, the civil and military headquarters of California. Accordingly, the mission was sent a significant number of religious objects and "church equipment." The Spanish authorities also decided to build a special stone church at Carmel and sent an architect / master stonemason, Manuel Estevan Ruiz, to build  the present church (between1793-1797).

Ruiz designed this church to have two bell towers, and you are right, the larger one contains nine bells, most of them original. My friend Donald Toomey, a noted California Missions author and special expert on religious art tells an interesting story of the history of the Carmel bells, drawing upon research that Cora Fremont Older did and published in her 1938 book California Missions and Their Romances. It seems that during the beginnings of mission restoration in the early 1920s, under the leadership of Fr. Monsignor Ramon Mestres, only one of the original bells was left in the tower. It bears the inscription St. John of the Cross 1781. Fr. Mestres found two of the missing (original Carmel) bells in Watsonville, where they had laid for 63 years. Another bell, cast in 1690, was given to Carmel in recent times (exact date unrecorded) by George Barron. Another Carmel bell, with Spanish marks bears the date 1805. Two other bells in the tower came from Russia (dates unrecorded). So while we now know more about the origin of the bells to my knowledge no one has a definitive answer for the number. As Mr. Toomey wisely states "the full story of the bells of Mission Carmel still remains undeciphered!" My own hypothesis - and it is just that - is that the number of bells was determined in a later phase of the restoration, in 1930s, and chosen to honor Fr. Junípero Serra, who founded the first nine missions. If you don't have it, you might enjoy Mr. Toomey's book The Spell of California's Spanish Missions. It provides considerable detail on the Saints for whom each mission was named and on the religious art found at each mission.

The Great Stone Church of San Juan Capistrano had bells hung in the tower. When the church collapsed in a massive earthquake, in 1812, the four original bells survived and were hung in a bell wall the following year. The two largest bells were cast in 1796, the others in 1804.

In 2000 the bells were removed from the bell wall and used for molds to make copies. They were saved after the copies were made, and placed in their current location in 2004. The two large bells on display within the Great Stone Church are now the original bells. The large bells in the bell wall are copies.

All the missions had bells. There is a complete list of the 21 missions, by location on our website. The mission bells were hung in a bell tower or campanario, or in some missions in a bell wall. They were used to notify the inhabitants of church services (the day started with the ringing of bells), to announce daily events (meals, for example) and to signal the arrival of visitors. The bells were rung extensively on feast days as part of the festivities.

In about 1893, when interest in “saving” the old Spanish missions was gathering steam, Ms. Anna Pitcher of The Woman’s Club of Los Angeles proposed that the historic trail of the mission era (El Camino Real) be preserved.

By 1904 a plan had taken shape and a group of women formed the El Camino Real Association. This ultimately led to the creation of large marker bells, some 400 of which were placed along the highway and at each mission.

One of the key movers and shakers in this effort was Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes. She and her husband Armitage Forbes started a manufacturing company to produce both the large marker bells and various size and type smaller bells. She ran the company for 20 years after he died. I don’t know whether your bells were produced by them but the California Bell Company still exists, and you can check with them.

John Kolstad C  

California Bell Co.

13600 Westover Dr.

Saratoga, Ca 95070-5136                                                                               

Or email to: sales@californiabell.com

Bells were used in the missions to call everyone to the church for services starting at sunrise, to communicate the time of day and to regulate daily life in the community. In the mission era neither the priests nor the Indian neophytes had watches.

The mission bells started the day and summoned everyone to morning mass. The bells were also rung at noon to announce the midday meal, and at sunset to call everyone home from work.

The bells used in the early missions were sent by ship with other supplies from New Spain (Mexico) and were considered essential in founding a new mission where they were hung from poles until a church could be built. The bells were blessed in a special service. The bells show the date they were cast.

Most of the California missions had a bell tower or campanario to hold the mission bells. Some had bell walls attached to the church. Perhaps the most well know bells in the California Missions are those at San Juan Capistrano, shown in this picture.

I will share with you some of the conclusions that I have reached:

1. The arrival of the Europeans in all of the Americas (in the case of the Spanish: Cuba, Perú, México, the Río de La Plata region in South America, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Baja and Alta California) rather quickly led to the destruction of an admirable and balanced way of life. Many will argue this was inevitable.

2. The Spanish colonized Alta California in a relatively humane and Christian way, and the Native Americans were treated better in the early decades than they were in many other Spanish and European dominated territories.

3. From the Franciscan perspective, the missions led to the baptism and conversion of thousands of Native Americans, and for the Catholic believers, that consequence overshadows all other end results.

4. A careful study of the Native American reaction to the mission life leads to the inescapable conclusion that some of the neophytes were satisfied with their lives, were truly converted, and embraced the "better way" presented to them; and others hated the highly regimented life in the mission communities and wanted to return to their original way of life. In some missions 10-15% of the neophytes tried to escape in a given year.

5. Over the years of Spanish and (after 1821) Mexican approach to the Native Americans changed. In the later decades of the mission era the soldiers were more aggressive in hunting down Indians and forcing them into the missions. There were more revolts by neophytes.

6. The situation varied by mission, largely based on the personality and leadership of the senior padre. In missions like San Luis Rey, under Fr. Peyri, the Indians were well treated, run-a-ways were less of a problem, and the mission achieved great success. San Luis Rey had the largest neophyte population in all of the Americas.

7. A comparison of how the Native Americans were treated by the Spanish with how they were treated after the American takeover of California and the “Gold Rush” days is revealing. The relatively few surviving Indians in the 1840s and 1850s were treated much more cruelly by the Americans who coveted their land and distrusted the natives.

I hope these insights stimulate your thinking. The “civilization” that took place in the late 18th and the 19th century – all over the world – led to destruction of a way of life and rapid declines in native populations (largely due to the introduction of “European” diseases like smallpox to which the Natives were not immune.)

The Spanish colonization led to the creation of a Spanish speaking, Christian population in the Americas that is vibrant, growing, and proud of its unique heritage.

The blacksmiths were very important to the functioning of the mission, and only strong, bright Indians who showed an aptitude for working with their hands were chosen.

The blacksmith shops were often located away from the main mission buildings because of the danger of fire. The blacksmiths used equipment similar to what was used elsewhere in the early 19th century: a forge, bellows, and an anvil on which to pound the metal after it was heated. The blacksmiths made all kinds of things: plows, tools, nails, cattle brands, and hinges. The San Fernando Rey blacksmiths were known to be particularly skilled and made such objects as scissors.

Is it true the Indians were intentionally wrapped in blankets that had been infected by chickenpox in order to kill them? Where can I find the information concerning the causes of the sharp decline in the California Indian population?

From all my research I do not believe that this story is true. It is true that many of the Native Americans died during smallpox epidemics. This disease was introduced by the Europeans. Recent mission scholarship is also critical of the crowded conditions in the mission housing, the fatalistic attitude of the Spanish to these outbreaks, and to the rejection of innovations in medicine that could have saved lives. Dr. Robert H. Jackson, in his book Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization sites the experience of the Baja missions where only three missionaries used inoculation by variolation, which substantially reduced the mortality rate at their missions. This book offers a scholarly perspective on the treatment of the Native Americans in California.

I have read in books that the Native Americans took "classes" after their morning work. I am confused because I thought there was a school at the mission that was only for Spaniards. Was there a school at the mission? if so, who attended its classes?

While the neophytes were "instructed" there wasn’t a school or a dedicated group of teachers in the sense we think of this in modern terms. You are correct that the Spanish tried to teach the neophytes Spanish (with limited success) but most of the "instruction" they received was religious teaching or involved practical aspects of farming and mission operation. Neophytes selected to learn particular crafts, such as carpentry or candle making, received practical training as apprentices in those fields.

In 1815 the Spanish authorities prepared a List of Questions that had to be answered by the Fathers at each mission. Fr. José Señan (Father President) prepared an 18 page reply based on these local reports. Here are a few of the comments contained in this remarkable document:

• "The Indians here speak their own idiom. Some converse in Spanish, but imperfectly."

• "The Indians…love their children but give them little or no education. It is different at the Mission, however, where, besides Religion, industry and agriculture is taught them."

• "[Some} neophytes, more out of curiosity than utility, manifest some inclination to learn to read and write. With charcoal, some of the boys at times draw characters on the walls, as white boys do…"

• "There is no way of getting the Indians to devote themselves more diligently to Spanish."

• "We have a catechism in the idiom of the Indians of the Mission and also a catechism in Castilian. Instructions are given in both languages alternatively."

• {the Indians] …" are ignorant of the calendar. Through their language has distinct words for morning, noon, evening and night, the pagans [unconverted Indians still living in their villages], live to suit their fancy, do not understand anything about this as far as eating, working and resting is concerned. The neophytes [Indians living at the mission] are guided in every thing by the Mission Bell."

• "They are now quite eager to sing and to play on the instruments, string as well as wind, and they easily learn by ear or by sight."

Yes, they certainly did. The noted expedition artist Louis Choris (1795-1828) did this wonderful drawing of the “Dance Head Dress” of the California Indians during the month he spent in California in October, 1816.

Choris was a talented Ukranian-born artist in his early 20s. He produced a splendid volume of colored lithographs entitled Picturesque Voyage around the World upon his return. Choris was killed by bandits in 1828 during an expedition to South America.

The Indians played many "field" games. The "balls" were made of natural material, stuffed animal skins, natural wooden knots, polished stones, hemp etc. Shinny games in which the ball or puck is moved with a stick were quite common.

There were many variations but these were team games (with three to ten players, typically) with rules and an object (to get the ball past the other team, through posts or into a hole.)

There is a terrific book Grass Games & Moon Races by Jeannine Gendar that describes the games and toys of the California Indians. The author takes great care to show how the games fit into the Indian culture and how they varied by tribe.

The Indian population at the Santa Barbara Mission peaked in 1803 at 1,792. Due to the introduction of European diseases the death rate began to exceed the birth rate among neophytes (at almost all the missions).

By 1828 all of the indigenous Chumash villages in the Santa Barbara Mission ceased to exist. The population of the mission gradually declined. It was 628 in 1832, the last year for which we have annual reports that summarized each mission's spiritual and material status.

The mission was secularized in 1834. A lay administrator was appointed to oversee temporal affairs. The neophyte population gradually melted away. Some Indians accepted positions at the ranchos and became vaqueros or field hands. Others blended into the local population. Some families continued to live on the former mission grounds.

In 1845 much of the mission was leased to Nicholas Den and Daniel Hill. The mission church continued to function and the mission was never totally abandoned.

What did the Indians do before the founding of the California Missions? How did they survive? What type of work did they do?

The Indians began to live in what we now know as California 8 -10,000 years ago, so I would say they survived pretty well. Because of the mountains and desert barriers they were pretty isolated from other North American Indians although there was some trading that took place.

The California Indians learned to live with and use the rich resources that were available to feed, shelter, clothe, and entertain themselves. They lived off the bountiful land and ate what was available – fish, game, edible plants etc. Acorns were a plentiful source of food. Finding food was the responsibility of the entire tribe and took up much of their time.

The California Indians lived in villages – many as small as 50 people, a few large enough to be called towns. The villages / tribes traded with each other. They played games, cleaned themselves in sweathouses, and worshiped the Supreme Being that created the earth. Their god had various names: the "Above Person", the "Immortal One", the "Earth Maker."

In summary, the Indians lived rich and full lives, surviving by living off the land, respecting it, and raising families.

Whether and how the Indians benefited depends on who you talked to. The padres felt that by recruiting Indians to join the church and become part of the mission they were benefiting them by baptizing them in the Christian faith,and teaching them skills and the Spanish language.

The Indians who adjusted to mission life and many of the generation of Indians who were born at a mission might agree and some became very used to life at the mission. They liked being part of the community; they grew accustomed to the food and the ritual.

When the missions were secularized in 1832-33 some Indians continued to live at mission voluntarily. Other Indians missed the old ways where they were part of a small village and lived off the land, and didn't have as regimented and 'busy' a life. Some of these Indians ran away and this group probably didn't think there was much benefit at all.

What was life like for the Indian children living at the mission? And how did the neophytes use their leisure time if they had any?

As you probably have already learned, the missions varied in size. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was one of the most prominent missions but the neophyte population was smaller than the average. There were only 876 neophytes at Mission Carmel in 1795, twenty-five years after the mission was founded, and this was the peak year.

By 1832, the population had declined to 185 (this was the year the mission was secularized). Unfortunately, the Europeans introduced many diseases (like smallpox) to which the Indians had no immunity. The children were particularly vulnerable. Sadly, over half of the children born on a mission died before reaching age 4 and only about two of every ten lived to be teenagers. The families lived in small rooms in generally unsanitary conditions. The children who lived at the presidios(forts) or on outlying ranchos had a higher chance of surviving.

The children at the missions did do things children do to have fun. In general, they played games learned before the arrival of the Spaniards. They were instructed in the Catholic faith and taught Spanish but at a relatively young age they began to participate in the work of the mission. The girls helped their mothers with cooking and cleaning and making clothes. They boys worked in the fields.

At many of the missions there were choirs and the young boys were taught to sing. In her book Grass Games & Moon Races Jeannie Gendar describes many of the games played by the children and points out that "children everywhere can have fun with the simplest toys, given the chance." So it isn't surprising that children made balls of natural material (such as tule fiber or rounded pieces of wood) and played stick games with them. They played variations of games we know today, like hide and seek, tag etc.

Whenever possible – particularly in early decades of the mission era - they continued doing things that they did before the creation of the missions. They gathered acorns with their mother, they went swimming, or they visited relatives in their villages The adult neophytes didn't have a lot of free time but they also played games in their leisure time. Sometimes they played games on which they could bet. If they could get away to fish and hunt they would do so.

Can you tell me the real purpose for the Spanish establishment of the missions? Was it a political move to ensure their hold on California or was primarily a means for the Catholic Church to convert the natives? I understand that it was probably a combination of the two but did the state or the church have the primary objective? And to what extent did slavery of the Native Americans play into the building and running of the missions?

The Spaniards used the mission system to settle and protect its long and exposed frontier. The territory north of Mexico City was referred to as the Northern Frontier.

The driving purpose (from the King’s perspective) was to protect and hold territory Spain had “discovered” and claimed. Missions were the fastest and most economical way to settle this vast territory. It simply was not practical or affordable to send large numbers of soldiers and settlers. Missions were not unique to California. With some local modifications the Spaniards used the mission system in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and in many parts of Latin America to settle their “frontier.”

From the church’s perspective (and for individual missionaries) the most important objective of the mission was to convert the natives. A pair of padres was assigned to each mission; one focused on spiritual affairs and the other managed temporal matters. In reality recruiting neophytes, and building and operating what became a self-contained large community with hundreds of inhabitants took the majority of the time and effort of the padres.

Some missionaries, perhaps the majority, would have preferred to function as simple priests. However the missionaries knew that in order to survive in the wilderness and receive the continued support of the crown, the missions had to become viable communities. When financial support from Spain began to diminish starting about 1810, the missions were under great pressure to produce more food and goods (cured cattle hides and tallow) that they could trade for necessary supplies and manufactured goods. So now the emphasis shifted even more to the operational aspects of the mission. By this time, too, the established missions were far flung enterprises with one or two mills, vineyards, farms, and ranches spread over as much as 40-50 miles.

So you are right, the purpose of the missions was both political and spiritual. However Spain was a Kingdom and the decision to settle California was made by the King and funded by the state. The church would have preferred to see this happen much earlier than it did.

As to your last question, the mission by definition was not just a church but a community and no mission could have survived or functioned without the Native Americans. They did all the work, from constructing and repairing buildings to planting the fields and tending to the herds; in the case of the women, making clothing, cooking, and washing.

Theoretically the Native Americans were converted and joined the mission voluntarily and this appears to be true, particularly in the early years. One doubts though, whether the Native Americans had much of a grasp of what daily life would be like. The California Indians lived off the land and it must have been a shock to move into a highly regimented, agricultural society where one was expected to work a good deal of the day. From what I have read some of the Native Americans, particularly those born in the missions, came to prefer this way of life. Others tried to escape. Run-a-ways were a big problem (10-15% of the population).

Leadership was also a factor here. The most successful missions had inspired padres who really cared about the neophytes and created a climate where the majority wanted to stay. Fr. Peyri at San Luis Rey was such a man, and when he finally left the mission to return to Spain he had to escape at night because the neophytes tried to prevent him from going and when they discovered he was gone scores of them rode to San Diego to try to prevent his ship from sailing and get him to change his mind.

If you are interested in this topic you might want to read Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians by Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo.

The work didn't vary a lot from mission to mission, although Santa Inés had one of the largest networks of ranches and agricultural fields in the mission chain, where they grew wheat, barley, corn, beans etc. Even today the Santa Inez valley is rich farming country. The men worked in the fields, tended the cattle and sheep, worked in mission mills (where grain was processed.) Santa Inés had two mills.

Some neophytes with an aptitude for working with their hands became skilled craftsman: carpenters, blacksmith, cobblers etc. The women cooked, wove yarn and made clothing and bedding, washed etc. Their days were very busy.

Cameron contacted us to say that he had a project on “the Mission of San Luis Obispo” due in about ten days and “I have not be able to find answers to two questions:

1. Which Native Americans lived at San Luis Obispo and what were some of their customs?

2. What was life like for them and what were their responsibilities?

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (the full name of the mission) was founded in the land of the Chumash people. The Chumash Indians occupied a large part of the coast from Malibu Canyon up to San Luis Obispo and inland as far as the western edge of the San Joaquín valley. They also occupied several of the Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz).

[inline:chumashmap.jpg=This map shows the location of the missions and villages in the land of the Chumash people.]

This map shows the location of the missions and villages in the land of the Chumash people.

Ultimately five missions were founded in this territory: San Buenaventura (in present day Ventura), Santa Barbara, Santa Inés (in present day Solvang), La Purísima (in Lompoc), and San Luis Obispo.

There were a number of Chumash languages and divisions. In the mission era the Chumash who lived around San Luis Obispo were called Obispino. The Chumash were a remarkable people, known for the large plank canoes they constructed. These were called a tomol. The tomol was very important to the Chumash way of life as they were avid fishermen and great traders.

The Chumash were dependent on their food from wild plants and what they could catch. Acorns and other nuts were among their most important foods. The Chumash lived in villages. Each village had a playing field and a sweathouse.

After the Chumash joined a mission their life became more regimented. The Native Americans in all the missions learned trades, raised crops, and tended large herds of livestock. The women cooked and cleaned. They had to live at the mission. There is more information on life at the missions on our website www.missionscalifornia.com. Navigate to Ask The Experts and look at the relevant questions and answers. Cameron, you have time to learn more about the Chumash. Go to a library, a bookstore or the nearest mission and see what is available. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has a lot of publications on the Chumash. They publish a very interesting book California’s Chumash Indians. It costs $7.95.

Please look at what is posted on our website (www.missionscalifornia.com ) under Ask The Expert. There are explanations of why they rang the bells, the work performed by the neophytes, what daily life was like, and other facts you can use. The short answer is that daily life was very regimented. It started with religious services. Everyone was very busy all day long working. They ate three times a day.

When the Spaniards settled the Carmel area in 1770 they built a presidio (fort) along the coast in Monterey, and in the beginning religious services were held at the presidio. However having the mission close to the presidio wasn’t desirable and it also soon became clear that the land along the coast was not particularly suited for growing crops. Moreover there were relatively few Indians living near the presidio site. So, Fr. Serra personally traveled the area searching for a more suitable place for the mission, which he found in the fertile Carmel valley.

Over time a substantial agricultural operation developed on the mission lands. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo grew wheat (the mission ranked in the middle of all the missions in wheat production) and other crops such as corn, beans, peas, lentils, and barley. The Indians that occupied this area belonged to the linguistic group, the Costanoan, a term derived from the Spanish word costeños, which means coast people. Two other terms were used to designate the Indians in this large language group: Ohlone and Mutsun. According to the Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8, the Costanoan-speaking people lived in approximately 50 nations or tribelets which ranged in size from 50 to 500 people. The neophytes at Carmel were drawn from these tribelets, in particular in the early years the Rumsen, who had five villages in the area where the Spaniards landed and first settled. Acorns were an important food for these natives (see of California Stories article “Acorns were Food Then” You might be interested in this map of California Indians

Periodic smallpox outbreaks and other European diseases affected the Indians particularly hard as they had no immunity. Experts estimate that European diseases accounted for about one third of the deaths of Native Americans in California after the Europeans arrived.

Sadly, this phenomenon was not unique to California and even more severe among other Native American populations. In 1617–1619, for example, smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans. It reached Mohawks in 1634, Lake Ontario in 1636, and the lands of the Iroquois by 1679.

Smallpox epidemics in 1780–1782 and 1837–1838 brought devastation and drastic depopulation among the Plains Indians. By 1832, the federal government established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans (The Indian Vaccination Act of 1832). At this time, of course, California was still part of México.

Most of the missions honor the Native Americans in several ways. They have a memorial in the mission cemetery. The mission gift shop includes books on the local Indians. The mission museum feature baskets, tools, and, other artifacts. Some missions, like San Juan Capistrano, has a diorama featuring the conversion and daily life of the neophytes.

One of the most extensive displays on the California Indians is at the San Luis Obispo museum. In addition to an impressive collection of arrowheads, stone implements, and educational material on the various Indian tribes, a section of the museum is devoted to murals depicting Indian life and cave art.

I am San Pasqual Indian and I am doing more research on the history of our tribe and was wondering, where could I obtain the history or any records of the chapel in the San Pasqual Valley which was part of the San Diego de Alcalá mission.

I suggest you contact Dr. John Johnson at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. He and his colleagues are very knowledgeable about the Native Americans and their early history, and often do genealogical and other research for individuals and tribes. The contact information is:

Museum of Natural History Santa Barbara Museum (www.sbnature.org)

2559 Puesta Del Sol

Santa Barbara, CA 93105 (805) 682-4711

We are doing a report on the San Gabriel Mission. We can't find the name of the Indian tribe that was part of the mission. We have four different books but they all just say Indians but do not provide the tribe's name. Please help soon.

The conventional term used to refer to the Indians who lived in the area where Mission San Gabriel was founded on September 8, 1771 is the Gabrielino Indians. The Indians who were further north and west in the Los Angeles basin, who were in the same linguistic group / tribe, were referred to as Fernandinos (after Mission San Fernando Rey). An alternate name to Gabrielino, preferred by some descents today, is Tongva. I am advised by several experts, however, that there was a limited collective identity among these Indians, as the residents of each village (there were over fifty villages at the time the Europeans arrived) identified with that village.

You may be looking at mission books. A definitive study of Indian tribes (published in 1978 by the Smithsonian) is Handbook of North American Indians. This large volume has a ten-page chapter, Gabrielino, by Lowell John Beam and Charles R. Smith. If you want to do a serious paper on these Indians you should buy (or find at a library) The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles by William McCawley. This is the latest study of these indians, published in 1996. It lists for $49.95 but can be purchased on Amazon for about $35.00, less if used.

The California Indians lived off the land and had a very unregimented life, so the biggest shocks to them after moving into a mission were:

1) life was very regimented - you got up in the morning at a fixed hour, ate breakfast lunch and dinner at a fixed hour, attended mass etc. on a schedule that was uniform for all of the missions.

2) you had to master a new language (Spanish, of course), and

3) you were quite busy working and didn't have the freedom you were used to...to wander into the woods on a nice day or go fishing.

The Indians were given material things like clothing and blankets, their food became much more dependable and varied, and they received extensive instruction in the Catholic religion. Discipline was strict (much like it was on sailing vessels of the period) and Indians who seriously broke the rules were punished, and sometimes whipped for a really serious offense.

Most of the Indians adjusted to this new way of life but a small percentage - estimated at about 10-15% - became "run-a-ways." The majority of the missionaries treated the Indians as "their children" and were quite solicitous of their welfare. The most troublesome offenses against the Indians were not perpetrated by the missionaries but by the 4-5 soldiers stationed at the mission, who could sometimes be quite cruel.

I have been looking and looking for certain questions and I cannot find the answers and I am so frustrated... Can someone please help me, please. My mission is San Francisco de Asís. I need to know what local Native American tribe came to work at this mission? Were the local Native Americans cooperative? How many people lived on this mission? If you can help me I would appreciate it.

Finding information can be frustrating. I am sorry you have had so much trouble. Some of what you are asking is available on our website: www.missionscalifornia.com. Click in the Ask the Experts section. There, look for Daily Life and Food at the Missions.

The neophytes at San Francisco de Asís were drawn from the Miwok and Patwin native people. While there were no large scale conflicts or revolts at this mission there were innumerable runaways. Mission life was difficult at this mission because of the weather and climate and the padres finally opened up a hospital mission at San Rafael in 1817. The highest recorded population at this mission was 1,807, in 1821. By 1832 (the last year for which records are available) the population had declined to 204 due to a high death rate, so many runaways, and the opening of San Rafael.

The Indian tribes in California suffered a severe decline in population after the arrival of the Europeans. Diseases against which they were not protected  (smallpox, for example) had a devastating effect. Some Indians converted to Christianity, others escaped to the interior.

Ultimately the remnants of some of the tribes were put on reservations. The Pala Sub-mission (about 25 miles east of San Luis Rey) is on an Indian Reservation and the church there is still serving the Native American population.

Can you tell me how the Kumeyaay Indians helped to name Mission San Diego de Alcalá the "Mother of all Missions?" What part did they play in the naming? Why is it called that?

The origin of the “official” name for first California mission (San Diego de Alcalá) and the reference to this as the “Mother of all Missions” is a little convoluted.

San Diego Bay was discovered by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 but given its present name by Captain Sebastián Vizcaíno when he explored the coast in 1602. The name was subsequently applied to both the first Spanish presidio (fort) and the first mission in Alta California by Fr. Junípero Serra at the official founding of the mission, on July 16, 1769.

Saint Didacus of Alcalá (c.1400-1463), the patron saint of the mission, was a Spanish hermit who became a brother in the Franciscan order. He was canonized by the Franciscan Pope Sixtus V in 1588.

The early reports from the Spanish missionaries referred to this mission as San Diego de Alcalá and sometimes included the name of the native village where the mission was established but in later documents San Diego is referred to only as San Diego de Alcalá. As far as we know popular or descriptive names for the missions did not began to appear until the early 1900s.

Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M. wrote the definitive early history of the missions (a multi-volume work entitled Missions and Missionaries of California) the first volume of which was published in 1908. Later, Fr. Engelhardt published individual books on each of the missions. His book on the San Diego Mission was published in 1930. As far as we know Fr. Engelhardt is the source of the capsule descriptions now used for many of the missions.

Since San Diego de Alcalá was the first mission it was quite logically called “The Mother of All Missions.” The natives had no role in the naming of the mission or its description as the Mother of All Missions.

I am attaching a photo of Fr. Engelhardt and an early sketch of the San Diego Mission.

Can you tell me how the Kumeyaay Indians helped to name Mission San Diego de Alcalá the "Mother of all Missions?" What part did they play in the naming? Why is it called that?

The origin of the “official” name for first California mission (San Diego de Alcalá) and the reference to this as the “Mother of all Missions” is a little convoluted.

San Diego Bay was discovered by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 but given its present name by Captain Sebastián Vizcaíno when he explored the coast in 1602. The name was subsequently applied to both the first Spanish presidio (fort) and the first mission in Alta California by Fr. Junípero Serra at the official founding of the mission, on July 16, 1769.

Saint Didacus of Alcalá (c.1400-1463), the patron saint of the mission, was a Spanish hermit who became a brother in the Franciscan order. He was canonized by the Franciscan Pope Sixtus V in 1588.

The early reports from the Spanish missionaries referred to this mission as San Diego de Alcalá and sometimes included the name of the native village where the mission was established but in later documents San Diego is referred to only as San Diego de Alcalá. As far as we know popular or descriptive names for the missions did not began to appear until the early 1900s.

Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M. wrote the definitive early history of the missions (a multi-volume work entitled Missions and Missionaries of California) the first volume of which was published in 1908. Later, Fr. Engelhardt published individual books on each of the missions. His book on the San Diego Mission was published in 1930. As far as we know Fr. Engelhardt is the source of the capsule descriptions now used for many of the missions.

Since San Diego de Alcalá was the first mission it was quite logically called “The Mother of All Missions.” The natives had no role in the naming of the mission or its description as the Mother of All Missions.

I am attaching a photo of Fr. Engelhardt and an early sketch of the San Diego Mission.

My question is about communion. Were Indians allowed to take communion? What were the requirements for an Indian to receive communion? And what did they use for communion bread? How was it disposed of? Do you think that they lined up and came forward, like the practice in Catholic churches today?

This is really a subject for an expert on the details of Catholic religious practices in Spain and Spanish America. As I recall (and I studied this a long time ago) the Council of Trent, which convened three times between 1545-1563 standardized the Mass and many other religious practices throughout the world. I believe they also ruled that it was not necessary to receive both "bread and wine" and that the Body of Christ was fully present in the "bread" which was much easier and safer to use.

I have no information on the exact form and nature of the communion wafers.

The submitter did some further research with the diocese and wrote this follow-up: Thank you again for your response! I do appreciate it. I did a bit of digging today, and discovered a few interesting facts that might relate to the communion question. I believe it is standard practice that one can’t take communion unless one is confirmed. Confirmation could only be done by the bishop, or by the Father Superior of the Franciscans in California. So probably not everyone could take communion. The bishop appeared but rarely (never even visited Purísima Mission until after secularization), but Father Lasuén confirmed about 1000 people during the time he was approved to do so, and Durán also confirmed during his tenure. I noticed that at times, baptism and confirmation occurred on the same day (!), probably because there wouldn’t be another chance (had to be done while the approved authority was around).

My question is about communion. Were Indians allowed to take communion? What were the requirements for an Indian to receive communion? And what did they use for communion bread? How was it disposed of? Do you think that they lined up and came forward, like the practice in Catholic churches today?

This is really a subject for an expert on the details of Catholic religious practices in Spain and Spanish America. As I recall (and I studied this a long time ago) the Council of Trent, which convened three times between 1545-1563 standardized the Mass and many other religious practices throughout the world. I believe they also ruled that it was not necessary to receive both "bread and wine" and that the Body of Christ was fully present in the "bread" which was much easier and safer to use.

I have no information on the exact form and nature of the communion wafers.

The submitter did some further research with the diocese and wrote this follow-up: Thank you again for your response! I do appreciate it. I did a bit of digging today, and discovered a few interesting facts that might relate to the communion question. I believe it is standard practice that one can’t take communion unless one is confirmed. Confirmation could only be done by the bishop, or by the Father Superior of the Franciscans in California. So probably not everyone could take communion. The bishop appeared but rarely (never even visited Purísima Mission until after secularization), but Father Lasuén confirmed about 1000 people during the time he was approved to do so, and Durán also confirmed during his tenure. I noticed that at times, baptism and confirmation occurred on the same day (!), probably because there wouldn’t be another chance (had to be done while the approved authority was around).

I have been studying the missions and have several questions.

How were Native women treated?

Were there relations, forced or chosen, between Spanish men (soldiers perhaps) and native women?

Did natives still teach their children their original customs and languages, or did they completely immerse them in Spanish culture?

What were the living quarters like? Did families live together?

In what ways were the soldiers cruel?

Was there alcoholism?

These are serious questions that deserve candid answers:

1. The native women in the missions worked quite hard, primarily at cooking, cleaning, making clothes etc. The hours were long but consistent with contemporary practice. The young women were provided special housing to protect them and provide a special environment.

2. There was extensive courting of the native women by the 4-5 soldiers stationed at each mission and presidios, and many of the soldiers married native American women, typically in unions that survived. While you are correct to call the soldiers Spanish, in that Spain controlled this territory, most of the soldiers were not from Spain but rather New Spain (today's Mexico), often of mixed blood.

3. Most of the women made an effort to keep their children in touch with their heritage. In the early days they frequently made visits back to their village. However the children were taught Spanish and quickly assimilated into the new environment, not unlike second and third generations today. The Indian beliefs and practices however, had a major impact on the food eaten and even the liturgy.

4. The neophytes (converted Indians) lived in special housing near the main quadrangle, which contained the church, padre's quarters, workshops etc. These were one story apartment like dwellings. One has been carefully preserved and restored. You can see this at the Santa Cruz Mission State Park (adjacent to but not part of the mission).

5. The soldiers were often cruel, particularly during the difficult transition years before and during the transition from Spain to Mexico, when they were typically underpaid or not paid at all for long periods, and when there were Indian uprisings. There were jails, and flogging was used for serious crimes.

6. There did not seem to be as widespread abuse of alcohol as found on the Indian Reservations in 19th century, in part because these were pretty well managed, self-contained communities. In general, the majority of the Native Americans made the transition into the mission community successfully but a small percentage (10-15% we estimate) did not and became "run-aways." Over time the neophytes were totally assimilated and many came to cherish this life and found it difficult to leave when the missions were secularized

I have been studying the missions and have several questions.

How were Native women treated?

Were there relations, forced or chosen, between Spanish men (soldiers perhaps) and native women?

Did natives still teach their children their original customs and languages, or did they completely immerse them in Spanish culture?

What were the living quarters like? Did families live together?

In what ways were the soldiers cruel?

Was there alcoholism?

These are serious questions that deserve candid answers:

1. The native women in the missions worked quite hard, primarily at cooking, cleaning, making clothes etc. The hours were long but consistent with contemporary practice. The young women were provided special housing to protect them and provide a special environment.

2. There was extensive courting of the native women by the 4-5 soldiers stationed at each mission and presidios, and many of the soldiers married native American women, typically in unions that survived. While you are correct to call the soldiers Spanish, in that Spain controlled this territory, most of the soldiers were not from Spain but rather New Spain (today's Mexico), often of mixed blood.

3. Most of the women made an effort to keep their children in touch with their heritage. In the early days they frequently made visits back to their village. However the children were taught Spanish and quickly assimilated into the new environment, not unlike second and third generations today. The Indian beliefs and practices however, had a major impact on the food eaten and even the liturgy.

4. The neophytes (converted Indians) lived in special housing near the main quadrangle, which contained the church, padre's quarters, workshops etc. These were one story apartment like dwellings. One has been carefully preserved and restored. You can see this at the Santa Cruz Mission State Park (adjacent to but not part of the mission).

5. The soldiers were often cruel, particularly during the difficult transition years before and during the transition from Spain to Mexico, when they were typically underpaid or not paid at all for long periods, and when there were Indian uprisings. There were jails, and flogging was used for serious crimes.

6. There did not seem to be as widespread abuse of alcohol as found on the Indian Reservations in 19th century, in part because these were pretty well managed, self-contained communities. In general, the majority of the Native Americans made the transition into the mission community successfully but a small percentage (10-15% we estimate) did not and became "run-aways." Over time the neophytes were totally assimilated and many came to cherish this life and found it difficult to leave when the missions were secularized

My understanding is that there were no sweathouses on the mission property. The missions did have an elaborate water system and water was available to wash.

In the early years, there were still Indian villages in the area near the missions and I am sure that neophytes returning home for a visit used the traditional sweathouses, particularly in the Chumash territory. There were hot springs near some of the missions and these were frequented by the Spaniards and others.

My understanding is that there were no sweathouses on the mission property. The missions did have an elaborate water system and water was available to wash.

In the early years, there were still Indian villages in the area near the missions and I am sure that neophytes returning home for a visit used the traditional sweathouses, particularly in the Chumash territory. There were hot springs near some of the missions and these were frequented by the Spaniards and others.

The main purpose of all of the missions from the viewpoint of the Spanish Crown was to confirm the claim of Spain to this wilderness by settling it and creating communities, and ultimately four presidios or forts that would defend the land. The purpose of the missions from the perspective of the padres was to convert the Native Americans, who were recruited into the missions and converted to Catholicism.

There were two types of trees - the trees that were there at the time of the arrival of the Europeans (the most dramatic of which were the Redwoods and the most important of which were Oak trees whose acorns were an important source of food to the Indians) and trees that were imported - particularly fruit trees, olive trees etc.

The main purpose of all of the missions from the viewpoint of the Spanish Crown was to confirm the claim of Spain to this wilderness by settling it and creating communities, and ultimately four presidios or forts that would defend the land. The purpose of the missions from the perspective of the padres was to convert the Native Americans, who were recruited into the missions and converted to Catholicism.

There were two types of trees - the trees that were there at the time of the arrival of the Europeans (the most dramatic of which were the Redwoods and the most important of which were Oak trees whose acorns were an important source of food to the Indians) and trees that were imported - particularly fruit trees, olive trees etc.

The main purpose of all of the missions from the viewpoint of the Spanish Crown was to confirm the claim of Spain to this wilderness by settling it and creating communities, and ultimately four presidios or forts that would defend the land. The purpose of the missions from the perspective of the padres was to convert the Native Americans, who were recruited into the missions and converted to Catholicism.

There were two types of trees - the trees that were there at the time of the arrival of the Europeans (the most dramatic of which were the Redwoods and the most important of which were Oak trees whose acorns were an important source of food to the Indians) and trees that were imported - particularly fruit trees, olive trees etc.

There were probably 18-20 rooms in total in the central core of the mission which contained the padre’s quarters, storage rooms and workshops (for carpentry, candle making etc.), and young women’s housing. There would have been other buildings in the complex: soldiers quarters, housing for the majordomo, storage buildings, neophyte housing, and a blacksmith shop. The missions grew most of the kinds of fruit you would be familiar with: apples, grapes, melons etc. Most missions grew wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, and lentils. Because it had an excellent climate and was well irrigated, San Buenaventura also grew exotic crops: coconuts, figs, and sugar cane, for example.

The primary source of income for most of the missions was cattle hides and tallow. San Buenaventura was not a “powerhouse” like San Gabriel or San Luis Rey, but they had a herd of about 4,000 cattle and 3,000 sheep.

The blacksmiths were very important to the functioning of the mission, and only strong, bright Indians who showed an aptitude for working with their hands were chosen.

The blacksmith shops were often located away from the main mission buildings because of the danger of fire. The blacksmiths used equipment similar to what was used elsewhere in the early 19th century: a forge, bellows, and an anvil on which to pound the metal after it was heated. The blacksmiths made all kinds of things: plows, tools, nails, cattle brands, and hinges. The San Fernando Rey blacksmiths were known to be particularly skilled and made such objects as scissors.

Virtually all of the common fruit trees were imported by the Spaniards - with apples, oranges, and lemons quite prevalent. Each mission had an orchard and extensive plantings of grapes, to produce wine. The primary crops grown in the field were wheat, barley, corn, peas, lentils, and beans. While some plantings came from Spain, most reached California from New Spain (current day Mexico), which was a Spanish possession for a couple of centuries at the time the missions were founded in what the Spaniards called Alta California.

What was daily life at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel like and how was it built? Also, what are some interesting facts about the mission?

San Gabriel is a particularly interesting mission. It was the fourth mission, founded on September 8, 1771. The present church was begun on 1791 and not completed until 1805. It is Moorish in appearance, with capped buttresses and long narrow windows. It has an appearance that is found in no other mission. Experts think that the design can be traced to the Cathedral of Córdoba, Spain. One of the priests who served at San Gabriel, Fr. Antonio Cruzado was in charge of the building of the original church, and he was born and brought up in Córdoba.

This was a very successful mission. You can learn more about the mission's history by taking the visual journey on our website. You can pause the video and take notes.

Life at the missions is described in several questions and answers on our website. Remember that the missions were very regulated and so life was very similar from mission to mission particularly during the Spanish era, so questions and answers on other mission apply to San Gabriel. Here is an interesting fact. San Gabriel had the second largest herd of livestock in the entire mission chain. As of December 31, 1832, (two years before the secularization of the missions) San Garield had 16,500 cattle, 8,500 sheep, 40 goats, 60 pigs, 1,200 horses, and 42 mules.

What was life at the mission like in the early days? What is it like now at San Juan Capistrano? ( I know it's an active church.)

In the very early days, all of the missions struggled to get established. San Juan Capistrano's beginning was interrupted for a year when Indians attacked and burned the San Diego Mission, and work on the new mission was suspended. When the missionaries returned, they gradually developed the mission by recruiting and training neophytes, they began to plant in the fields, and build structures, the first of which was a chapel. Because the mission was in a fertile valley blessed with a moderate climate, the mission soon flourished.

Daily life in this small self-contained community was quite busy and regimented. There were regular religious services. Most of the men worked in the fields, on ranchos tending livestock or in some cases skilled trades (wood and leather working, candle making etc.) The women made clothing and cooked. Everyone was taught Spanish.

Life at the mission today reflects its popularity as a tourist destination. Mass is still said at the original chapel (called Father Serra's Church) but the principal parish church is a new structure built nearby as the chapel is quite small. There has been a lot of investment made in preserving the ruins of the Great Stone Church (which collapsed in an earthquake in 1812). Many school children visit this mission and they have a very well organized program to orient visitors, raise money for the preservation of the mission, and celebrate historic events.

Today the missions primarily consist of a restored church (which sometimes serves as a parish church) and few additional buildings. The only mission which has most of the workshops where products were made is La Purísima, which consists of over 20 buildings. They give demonstrations there of candle making (made from the tallow of cows), weaving (using wool), woodworking, and a blacksmith shop (where they forged products like nails and tools.)

In the mission era, the primary products were wheat, corn, and other products grown in the mission fields such as fruit (primarily in the south. Also, products made from cattle and sheep. The most lucrative product was a dried cattle hide, called Yankee Dollars. Traders in ships from Massachusetts, New York and other eastern states purchased or traded goods for these items. The cattle hides were made into shoes.

In 1815 the Father President of the mission chain, José Señan compiled a report for the Spanish authorities that included this detailed description. At the time he was at Mission San Buenaventura. "At the Mission there is morning prayer when the sun rises, at which time also Holy Mass is said. After sunrise they [the neophytes] are given a ration of atole [a type of cereal eaten as mush or a thin gruel], and the same is given after the recital of the Doctrina in the evening. At noon, the meal consists of pozole [a thick, hearty soup] made of wheat, corn, peas, and other vegetables. Every week they receive a ration of fresh beef, in sufficient amount, according to the means of the Mission. At this mission [San Buenaventura], weekly, sixty, fifty or at least forty-five head of cattle are slaughtered. In seasons when the cattle are very fat, sixty head are slaughtered twice a week, in order to increase and sell the tallow and thereby procure the necessary goods [tallow and hides were traded for supplies the mission required.] The large parts of the meat are taken in carts to the fields and burnt, since there is no one to collect them and there is plenty of fresh meat in the houses. In addition, the Indians have in their homes supplies of acorns, chia seeds [taken from a plant of the mint family], fruits, zacates [an edible grass], and other various wild eatables, all of which they do not overlook, being very fond of them. They also eat fish, mussels, ducks, geese, cranes, quail, hares, squirrels, rats, and other animals which are to be had in abundance. On account of this hodge-podge of eatables, which they have in their homes, and to their being like children who eat at all hours, it is hard to determine how much they eat every day."

What was life like for the Indian children living at the mission? And how did the neophytes use their leisure time if they had any?

As you probably have already learned, the missions varied in size. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was one of the most prominent missions but the neophyte population was smaller than the average. There were only 876 neophytes at Mission Carmel in 1795, twenty-five years after the mission was founded, and this was the peak year.

By 1832, the population had declined to 185 (this was the year the mission was secularized). Unfortunately, the Europeans introduced many diseases (like smallpox) to which the Indians had no immunity. The children were particularly vulnerable. Sadly, over half of the children born on a mission died before reaching age 4 and only about two of every ten lived to be teenagers. The families lived in small rooms in generally unsanitary conditions. The children who lived at the presidios(forts) or on outlying ranchos had a higher chance of surviving.

The children at the missions did do things children do to have fun. In general, they played games learned before the arrival of the Spaniards. They were instructed in the Catholic faith and taught Spanish but at a relatively young age they began to participate in the work of the mission. The girls helped their mothers with cooking and cleaning and making clothes. They boys worked in the fields.

At many of the missions there were choirs and the young boys were taught to sing. In her book Grass Games & Moon Races Jeannie Gendar describes many of the games played by the children and points out that "children everywhere can have fun with the simplest toys, given the chance." So it isn't surprising that children made balls of natural material (such as tule fiber or rounded pieces of wood) and played stick games with them. They played variations of games we know today, like hide and seek, tag etc.

Whenever possible – particularly in early decades of the mission era - they continued doing things that they did before the creation of the missions. They gathered acorns with their mother, they went swimming, or they visited relatives in their villages The adult neophytes didn't have a lot of free time but they also played games in their leisure time. Sometimes they played games on which they could bet. If they could get away to fish and hunt they would do so.

The work didn't vary a lot from mission to mission, although Santa Inés had one of the largest networks of ranches and agricultural fields in the mission chain, where they grew wheat, barley, corn, beans etc. Even today the Santa Inez valley is rich farming country. The men worked in the fields, tended the cattle and sheep, worked in mission mills (where grain was processed.) Santa Inés had two mills.

Some neophytes with an aptitude for working with their hands became skilled craftsman: carpenters, blacksmith, cobblers etc. The women cooked, wove yarn and made clothing and bedding, washed etc. Their days were very busy.

What rules did the mission have? Did the padres have rules? What were they? Did the Spanish soldiers have rules? What were they?

The Spaniards had rules for almost EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY . They had, what we would call today, big manuals describing how a mission should be founded, how the mission should be built, and how it should operate. The padres were governed by the rules of their Franciscan order (for example they couldn't own anything) and they had to sign a contract with the government to agree to stay in California for ten years. The soldiers, like the soldiers in every army, had rules of governing their behavior, dress, and relations with the natives. You didn't mention the neophytes but their lives were very regimented too.

Please look at what is posted on our website (www.missionscalifornia.com ) under Ask The Expert. There are explanations of why they rang the bells, the work performed by the neophytes, what daily life was like, and other facts you can use. The short answer is that daily life was very regimented. It started with religious services. Everyone was very busy all day long working. They ate three times a day.

My son has to prepare a recipe book for foods prepared at the Mission Santa Clara. We have searched the Internet & always find crops they grew or foods that the local Indians ate. But we have yet to find anything about what foods were prepared and eaten by the Franciscans at the mission.

The best source for recipes is a book written in 1984 by Bess Cleveland, entitled "California Mission Recipes." It is available in most libraries and in used book stores for under $10.00. There are also two pages of recipes near the back of the Sunset publication The California Missions.

The food eaten at the mission was 'substantial', formed around grain and cornmeal, sharpened with chilies. Some of the specific dishes for which recipes have been found are Puchero (a broiled pot of beef and veal mixed with corn, potatoes, beans, onions, peppers, string beans, squash along with an apple and a pear), Pozole (another mixed stew cooked in a large kettle), Torrejas (corn dough fritters), Tortillas, and a dish called Relleno de Carne (chopped beef mixed with onions, raisins, black olives, and an egg). They also had recipes for sweets. One was called Dulce de Calabaza (a candied pumpkin), another was called a Jiricalla (a custard). The Spaniards liked a thick chocolate called a Champurrado (it was thicker and sweeter than the Hot Chocolate we known today).

Many of the missions had large groves of fruit trees so apples and pears were plentiful at some missions. The Spaniards preferred items made of wheat and would not eat corn, which they felt was beneath them.

Some time ago, the California Mission Studies Association published a recipe for Pozole: INGREDIENTS FOR POZOLE: 1 onion, chopped; 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped; 2 tablespoon vegetable oil or lard; 1/2 teaspoon each black pepper, ground cumin, cloves, cayenne; 1-1/2 lbs. pork shoulder, cooked and cut into 1-inch cubes; 2 to 3 cups canned white or yellow hominy (drained and rinsed); 3 to 5 cups pork broth, degreased and strained; 1 C canned chopped green chiles; 2 whole jalapeños, canned or fresh (omit for milder recipe); salt to taste. In a large soup pot or kettle, sauté the onion and garlic in oil or lard until wilted and beginning to brown. Add the spices, stirring to blend. Add the pork, drained and rinsed hominy, pork broth, the green chiles and jalapeños. Cook at a simmer, covered, for 45 to 60 minutes or until the meat and hominy are tender and the chiles and onions are well amalgamated into the broth. To assure a generous amount of broth for each serving of pozole, add more water or broth as needed to keep pork covered in the final minutes of stewing. Remove pozole from heat and cool slightly. Degrease the stew. Check to see if salt is needed. Reheat before serving. Ladle pozole into wide soup plates and garnish (red or green salsa, finely shredded lettuce or cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, chunks of ripe avocado, chopped tomato, and lime wedges). Warm flour tortillas and salsa are good accompaniments.

By the 1800s most of the missions were firmly established. They had large herds of livestock – there were some cattle and sheep at all of the missions. The largest herd was at San Luis Rey, which in 1832 had 26,100 cattle and 20,100 sheep. Each mission also had large fields of crops - wheat, barley, corn, beans, and peas mostly. They ate this food, cooking it according to recipes the padres brought with them. These were mostly Spanish and Mexican dishes. The food eaten at the mission was ‘substantial’, formed around grain and cornmeal, sharpened with chilies. Some of the specific dishes for which recipes have been found are Puchero (a broiled pot of beef and veal mixed with corn, potatoes, beans, onions, peppers, string beans, squash along with an apple and a pear), Torrejas (corn dough fritters), Tortillas,  and a dish called Relleno de Carne (chopped beef mixed with onions, raisins, black olives, and an egg). They also had recipes for sweets. One was called Dulce de Calabaza (a candied pumpkin), another was called a Jiricalla (a custard). The Spaniards liked a thick chocolate called a Champurrado (it was thicker and sweeter than the Hot Chocolate we known today). Many of the missions had large groves of fruit trees so apples and pears were plentiful at some missions.

During the Spanish era most of the inhabitants lived in one of the four presidios (San Diego, Monterey, San Francisco, and Santa Bárbara), in one of the three pueblos or towns (San José, Los Ángeles, and Branciforte), or at one of the missions. The best source for the population data is the annual reports prepared for the authorities each year. Dr. Robert Jackson has assembled data from these annual reports and was good enough to provide me with these counts for the year 1820, just before Alta California became part of México.

ALTA CALIFORNIA 1820
 
LOCATION POPULATION
Presidios 2,086
Pueblos (Towns) 976
Missions 21,063
TOTAL 24,125

Weaving was very important. The missions had to make their own clothing, rugs, and blankets.

The primary material used was wool. Most of the missions had herds of sheep. In 1832, the last year for which records were kept, there were 137,969 sheep at the 21 missions. There was a lot of activity connected with the sheep and weaving. Some of the neophytes became sheepherders. The sheep had to be sheared. Later the wool was washed, dyed, carded, and combed by the women at the mission. Then looms were used to weave the prepared wool.

On Mission Days at La Purísima docents demonstrate weaving, as shown in the picture below.

Of course you can weave with many things: grasses, palm leaves, and even thin strips of wood. Long before the missionaries came the California Indians wove wonderful baskets, some of which are on display at the mission museums.

Weaving was very important. The missions had to make their own clothing, rugs, and blankets.

The primary material used was wool. Most of the missions had herds of sheep. In 1832, the last year for which records were kept, there were 137,969 sheep at the 21 missions. There was a lot of activity connected with the sheep and weaving. Some of the neophytes became sheepherders. The sheep had to be sheared. Later the wool was washed, dyed, carded, and combed by the women at the mission. Then looms were used to weave the prepared wool.

On Mission Days at La Purísima docents demonstrate weaving, as shown in the picture below.

Of course you can weave with many things: grasses, palm leaves, and even thin strips of wood. Long before the missionaries came the California Indians wove wonderful baskets, some of which are on display at the mission museums.

First of all, why did they have missions and why were they important? As we have said in an earlier Q&A, the missions were built by the Spaniards starting in 1769 in order to “colonize” the territory of Alta California. So the missions were important because they were the means of settling California. Without the missions, California - which was a real wilderness in 1769 - would have been settled much more slowly and possibly with a lot more conflict.

The missions are also important because they are some of the oldest buildings left in the state and they help us get in touch with the early history of California.

What life was like for the missionaries? The missionaries typically entered the Franciscan order at a very young age (usually about 16). Then, they studied to become priests. They only became missionaries if they volunteered. If they were accepted for missionary service they had to leave their homeland (almost all of them came from Spain) with a good chance they would never see their parents or their country again. The fact is that 58 of the 142 missionaires died in California and never did return home.

Their daily life was very busy and combined religious activities (saying mass, baptizing the natives etc.), running a large community, building the mission (which often included more than 20 buildings), making sure that there was enough for everyone to eat (the missions had large farms and ranches), and overseeing all the goods the missions needed (each mission had blacksmiths and candle makers.) In addition, they made their own shoes and clothing, etc.

There was a wonderful priest named Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta. I wrote a whole chapter about him in my book Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests. Fr. Cuesta was age 27 when he arrived in California by ship in 1808. He died the age of 60 in 1840, afflicted with rheumatism, hardly able to walk. Even though he had fulfilled his service in 1818 he stayed at his post all those years because there was no one to replace him. I found a copy of a letter he wrote to a friend which will give you a good idea of the “temporal” duties of the missionaries, which many of them found an almost intolerable burden. He writes: "There are difficulties all around and I am overburdened with cares which render life wearisome. There is hardly anything of the religious in me, and I scarcely know what to do in these troubling times. I made the vows of a Friar Minor; instead, I must manage the Indians, sow grain, and raise sheep, horses, and cows. I must preach, baptize, bury the dead, visit the sick, direct the carts, haul stones, lime etc. These are things incompatible, thorny, bitter, hard, and unbearable. They rob me of time, tranquility, and my health. I desire with lively anxiety to devote myself to my sacred ministry and to serve the Lord." Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta in a letter to a friend, written in 1826. 

Joseph wrote to thanks us. “That memo was very helpful for my project. Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta does sound like a wonderful guy.”

First of all, why did they have missions and why were they important? As we have said in an earlier Q&A, the missions were built by the Spaniards starting in 1769 in order to “colonize” the territory of Alta California. So the missions were important because they were the means of settling California. Without the missions, California - which was a real wilderness in 1769 - would have been settled much more slowly and possibly with a lot more conflict.

The missions are also important because they are some of the oldest buildings left in the state and they help us get in touch with the early history of California.

What life was like for the missionaries? The missionaries typically entered the Franciscan order at a very young age (usually about 16). Then, they studied to become priests. They only became missionaries if they volunteered. If they were accepted for missionary service they had to leave their homeland (almost all of them came from Spain) with a good chance they would never see their parents or their country again. The fact is that 58 of the 142 missionaires died in California and never did return home.

Their daily life was very busy and combined religious activities (saying mass, baptizing the natives etc.), running a large community, building the mission (which often included more than 20 buildings), making sure that there was enough for everyone to eat (the missions had large farms and ranches), and overseeing all the goods the missions needed (each mission had blacksmiths and candle makers.) In addition, they made their own shoes and clothing, etc.

There was a wonderful priest named Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta. I wrote a whole chapter about him in my book Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests. Fr. Cuesta was age 27 when he arrived in California by ship in 1808. He died the age of 60 in 1840, afflicted with rheumatism, hardly able to walk. Even though he had fulfilled his service in 1818 he stayed at his post all those years because there was no one to replace him. I found a copy of a letter he wrote to a friend which will give you a good idea of the “temporal” duties of the missionaries, which many of them found an almost intolerable burden. He writes: "There are difficulties all around and I am overburdened with cares which render life wearisome. There is hardly anything of the religious in me, and I scarcely know what to do in these troubling times. I made the vows of a Friar Minor; instead, I must manage the Indians, sow grain, and raise sheep, horses, and cows. I must preach, baptize, bury the dead, visit the sick, direct the carts, haul stones, lime etc. These are things incompatible, thorny, bitter, hard, and unbearable. They rob me of time, tranquility, and my health. I desire with lively anxiety to devote myself to my sacred ministry and to serve the Lord." Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta in a letter to a friend, written in 1826. 

Joseph wrote to thanks us. “That memo was very helpful for my project. Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta does sound like a wonderful guy.”

First of all, why did they have missions and why were they important? As we have said in an earlier Q&A, the missions were built by the Spaniards starting in 1769 in order to “colonize” the territory of Alta California. So the missions were important because they were the means of settling California. Without the missions, California - which was a real wilderness in 1769 - would have been settled much more slowly and possibly with a lot more conflict.

The missions are also important because they are some of the oldest buildings left in the state and they help us get in touch with the early history of California.

What life was like for the missionaries? The missionaries typically entered the Franciscan order at a very young age (usually about 16). Then, they studied to become priests. They only became missionaries if they volunteered. If they were accepted for missionary service they had to leave their homeland (almost all of them came from Spain) with a good chance they would never see their parents or their country again. The fact is that 58 of the 142 missionaires died in California and never did return home.

Their daily life was very busy and combined religious activities (saying mass, baptizing the natives etc.), running a large community, building the mission (which often included more than 20 buildings), making sure that there was enough for everyone to eat (the missions had large farms and ranches), and overseeing all the goods the missions needed (each mission had blacksmiths and candle makers.) In addition, they made their own shoes and clothing, etc.

There was a wonderful priest named Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta. I wrote a whole chapter about him in my book Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests. Fr. Cuesta was age 27 when he arrived in California by ship in 1808. He died the age of 60 in 1840, afflicted with rheumatism, hardly able to walk. Even though he had fulfilled his service in 1818 he stayed at his post all those years because there was no one to replace him. I found a copy of a letter he wrote to a friend which will give you a good idea of the “temporal” duties of the missionaries, which many of them found an almost intolerable burden. He writes: "There are difficulties all around and I am overburdened with cares which render life wearisome. There is hardly anything of the religious in me, and I scarcely know what to do in these troubling times. I made the vows of a Friar Minor; instead, I must manage the Indians, sow grain, and raise sheep, horses, and cows. I must preach, baptize, bury the dead, visit the sick, direct the carts, haul stones, lime etc. These are things incompatible, thorny, bitter, hard, and unbearable. They rob me of time, tranquility, and my health. I desire with lively anxiety to devote myself to my sacred ministry and to serve the Lord." Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta in a letter to a friend, written in 1826. 

Joseph wrote to thanks us. “That memo was very helpful for my project. Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta does sound like a wonderful guy.”

First of all, why did they have missions and why were they important? As we have said in an earlier Q&A, the missions were built by the Spaniards starting in 1769 in order to “colonize” the territory of Alta California. So the missions were important because they were the means of settling California. Without the missions, California - which was a real wilderness in 1769 - would have been settled much more slowly and possibly with a lot more conflict.

The missions are also important because they are some of the oldest buildings left in the state and they help us get in touch with the early history of California.

What life was like for the missionaries? The missionaries typically entered the Franciscan order at a very young age (usually about 16). Then, they studied to become priests. They only became missionaries if they volunteered. If they were accepted for missionary service they had to leave their homeland (almost all of them came from Spain) with a good chance they would never see their parents or their country again. The fact is that 58 of the 142 missionaires died in California and never did return home.

Their daily life was very busy and combined religious activities (saying mass, baptizing the natives etc.), running a large community, building the mission (which often included more than 20 buildings), making sure that there was enough for everyone to eat (the missions had large farms and ranches), and overseeing all the goods the missions needed (each mission had blacksmiths and candle makers.) In addition, they made their own shoes and clothing, etc.

There was a wonderful priest named Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta. I wrote a whole chapter about him in my book Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests. Fr. Cuesta was age 27 when he arrived in California by ship in 1808. He died the age of 60 in 1840, afflicted with rheumatism, hardly able to walk. Even though he had fulfilled his service in 1818 he stayed at his post all those years because there was no one to replace him. I found a copy of a letter he wrote to a friend which will give you a good idea of the “temporal” duties of the missionaries, which many of them found an almost intolerable burden. He writes: "There are difficulties all around and I am overburdened with cares which render life wearisome. There is hardly anything of the religious in me, and I scarcely know what to do in these troubling times. I made the vows of a Friar Minor; instead, I must manage the Indians, sow grain, and raise sheep, horses, and cows. I must preach, baptize, bury the dead, visit the sick, direct the carts, haul stones, lime etc. These are things incompatible, thorny, bitter, hard, and unbearable. They rob me of time, tranquility, and my health. I desire with lively anxiety to devote myself to my sacred ministry and to serve the Lord." Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta in a letter to a friend, written in 1826. 

Joseph wrote to thanks us. “That memo was very helpful for my project. Fr. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta does sound like a wonderful guy.”

In 1992, Fr.Thom Davis described the daily life of a padre at the California Mission Studies Association (CMSA) Annual Conference. This has been reproduced on the association site.

In 1992, Fr.Thom Davis described the daily life of a padre at the California Mission Studies Association (CMSA) Annual Conference. This has been reproduced on the association site.

The policies and procedures are set by each mission, and are typically available at the church Rectory, if the mission is an active Catholic Church. Some missions do a better job than others in providing written guidelines. One of the most comprehensive is Santa Inés, whose written guideline follows:

Marriage Guidelines of Santa Inés:

Wedding Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

"We welcome Catholic marriages here in the church at beautiful Old Mission Santa Inés. Arrangements should be made with a priest at Mission Santa Inés at least 6 months in advance. The wedding coordinator is Debra White (805) 688-0294 who should be contacted immediately. She can aid you in the preparation of your wedding and advise you as to church customs, flowers, etiquette, candles, etc."

You will need A RECENT Baptismal certificate for each Catholic party, which must be obtained from the church of baptism (issued within the last six months.)

You will also need:

• Certificates of First Communion and Confirmation (photocopies would suffice, if possible.)

• Testimony of the bride and groom

• The sworn testimony of two competent witnesses for each party concerning freedom to be married in the Catholic Church (usually parents.) Forms are available from the parish but need to be signed in the presence of a priest or a notary.

• Certificate of completion of either an Engagement Encounter Weekend or a Marriage preparation course

You will, of course, need to have a Marriage License. Your Marriage License (valid for 90 days) should be delivered to the officiating priest prior to the wedding rehearsal. For marriage license information call 805-568-2210.

No alcoholic beverages allowed on the premises either before or after the wedding rehearsal or wedding ceremony. Bird seed, rice, flower petals, confetti, potpourri, or fruit are not allowed inside or outside the church.

Church Fee: Fee for parishioners (a worshiping, contributing, acting member in the life of the parish) is $550.00 for 2008 and $600.00 for 2009; the fee for non-parishioners is $1,200.00 for 2008 and $1,300.00 for 2009. There is a $200 deposit when the wedding is booked and the balance is due at least one month prior to the wedding. The church fee does not include a good-will offering to the officiating priest.

Officiating Priest: The priests at Old Mission Santa Inés will gladly officiate at your wedding. We also welcome a visiting priest of your choice to celebrate or con-celebrate, but a priest residing at Old Mission Santa Inés must also be available on that date in case a visiting priest must cancel on short notice.

Music: To arrange for music, please call soloist Erika Miller 805-459-8983 or soloist Peggy McHale 805-693-8696. Fees are to be paid to them directly. You may elect to use your own musicians. All music should be approved by the wedding coordinator.

Photographers: Please select your photographer carefully and instruct him/her to spend no more than 30 minutes taking formal pictures after the wedding. ALSO, arrangements to take pictures prior to the wedding should be within the time frame of the wedding and not interfere with a preceding event. Photographers are not allowed in the Sanctuary during the ceremony, and may NOT use flash photography at any time.

Flowers: Flower bouquets may be positioned at either side of the altar and are to be left in church for Sunday Masses. Any florist may be used. The possibility of sharing flowers with other couples being married on the same day may be planned (share expense). Please do not deliver anything before the day of the wedding. Taping decorations to the pews is NOT allowed.

If you need additional information, please contact Sheila Benedict, Parish Administrator, at 805-688-4815.

My son and his fiancée are planning to be married. If I can find a mission venue, can our pastor marry them or does it have to be a priest? They are not Catholic. I am particularly interest in San Fernando.

Most - quite possibly all - of the missions that are active churches require that at least one of the couple being married to be Catholic.

You usually have the opportunity to bring your own priest. You may have to consider one of the missions which is not an active Catholic church (the nearest, I believe, is La Purísima in Lompoc, which wouldn't be very convenient) or find a nearby venue.

There is an inviting park across from San Fernando, Brand Park at 15174 San Fernando Mission Boulevard. You might call the rectory and get their advice (818-361-0186). If they are unable to hold the service they may be able to give you some additional suggestions. One other idea would be to find a wedding photographer who covers this area and explore venues with them.

We are planning a wedding in San Fernando, California. My daughter and her fiancée would love to get married either in the San Fernando Mission or the park where everyone takes their pictures. There will only be around 50 people, and the pastor from our church will marry them wherever they decide. Can arrangements be made for this? We were born and raised in California. My Great Great Great Grandfather was one of the first Spanish settlers in Los Angeles, and my Grand father sat in one of the chairs in the San Fernando Mission because he was so tired, he was 103 just months before he died in 1969. He loved going to that old mission. I’ve seen the damage from the earthquakes shake that old mission, but God has kept her alive. Please advise if there is anything where you can help us. We will be driving in from Texas the weekend of August 15th.

Congratulations and best luck in finding a mission venue on short notice. There is no other option but to get on the phone and call the rectories of all possible missions. San Fernando Rey would be nice but if that proves impossible three other options I would consider are San Gabriel (not as extensive or as elegant grounds but the mission church itself is spectacular and it is close),  San Buenaventura (in Ventura),  and - a bit further drive for you - Santa Inés mission. Santa Bárbara is typically booked 6 months in advance and San Juan Capistrano is also very difficult to book. There are telephone numbers on our website.

Could you provide information regarding a possible wedding at either the Santa Barbara or Ventura missions? Are marriages allowed at these missions? We would like to get married in July of 2005, and this would be a sublime experience never to be forgotten.

There is such an overwhelming demand for special services (particularly baptisms and marriages) at the missions that at certain missions these events are restricted to parishioners. Here is the story at the two missions you mentioned and one other you might want to consider: Santa Barbara limits marriage ceremonies to members of their parish. They get 10-12 requests a week and can only accommodate 1-2 weddings on a weekend. San Buenaventura will allow marriages for those who are not members of their parish but either the bride or groom must be Catholic, and you may have to bring your own priest to perform the service. You can contact the parish office at 805-643-4318.

You might want to consider Mission Santa Inés (which is in Solvang). This is a lovely mission, with a romantic patio / courtyard behind the church. One of the couple being married must be Catholic. With advanced scheduling one of the priests may be able to officiate. Call Fr. Michael at 805-688-4815. As part of your planning you and your fiancée should view the 4-6 minute “visual journeys” of each mission we now have posted on our website www.missionscalifornia.com

Could you provide information regarding a possible wedding at either the Santa Barbara or Ventura missions. Are marriages allowed at these missions? We would like to get married in July of 2005, and this would be a sublime experience never to be forgotten.

There is such an overwhelming demand for special services (particularly baptisms and marriages) at the missions that at certain missions these events are restricted to parishioners. Here is the story at the two missions you mentioned and one other you might want to consider: Santa Barbara limits marriage ceremonies to members of their parish. They get 10-12 requests a week and can only accommodate 1-2 weddings on a weekend. San Buenaventura will allow marriages for those who are not members of their parish but either the bride or groom must be Catholic, and you may have to bring your own priest to perform the service. You can contact the parish office at 805-643-4318.

You might want to consider Mission Santa Inés (which is in Solvang). This is a lovely mission, with a romantic patio / courtyard behind the church. One of the couple being married must be Catholic. With advanced scheduling one of the priests may be able to officiate. Call Fr. Michael at 805-688-4815. As part of your planning you and your fiancée should view the 4-6 minute “visual journeys” of each mission we now have posted on our website www.missionscalifornia.com

Father Serra wrote the following quotation when he founded Carmel Mission "Omnes morimur et quasi awua dilabimur in terram, qua non revertuntur". What does it mean? He inscribed it in the Register for Deaths and Burials at the mission.

This is a passage from the bible, 2 Samuel 14:14. The commonly accepted English version of "Omnes morimur et quasi awua dilabimur in terram, qua non revertuntur" is: "All of us must die. We are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again."

Fr. Junípero Serra died at his room at Mission Carmel on August 28, 1784 at the age of 70 years, 9 months and 4 days. Toward the end of life he told his friend and confessor, Fr. Francisco Palou: “I desire you to bury me in the church, quite close to Father Juan Crespi for the present; and when the stone church is built, they may put me where they want.” What he was referring to is that the present church at the mission was planned but not constructed at the time of his death. The present church was begun in 1793 and dedicated in 1797. When it was completed, Fr. Serra’s remains were buried there.

I am interested in purchasing a statue of Fr. Junípero Serra. Do you have anything to offer or can you recommend another source?

Unfortunately we do not carry any statues of the Blessed Serra. The Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo was selling a 2-foot high "gray wash" concrete statue of Fr. Serra last year. I don’t know whether they have any left, or whether you were searching for something smaller and / or in metal. You can call the school at: (650) 573-6638.

We have a Collector Card ($1.00) and an eBook: Palou’s Life of Father Junípero Serra ($9.95). The eBook has to be ordered via fax at 480-443-8333 or by mail (Pentacle Press, PO Box 9400, Scottsdale Arizona 85252.)

We are working on an illustrated Time Line of Junípero Serra’s life. This is available online at my publishing website www.pentacle-press.com. It contains about 30 photographs of various places important in Fr. Serra’s life; also images of him as reflected in various paintings and statues etc.

This story has a successful conclusion. A few weeks later we received the following email: I contacted Serra High School and they had one statue left. It should be in the mail to me this week. Thanks again for you suggestions.

Who made the wonderful statues of Junípero Serra that are at so many of the missions? I just saw a Serra statue at Mission Santa Bárbara.

Many of the mission – and scores of other locations in California - have statues of Fr. Serra identical to the one pictured here, which sits in front of the entrance to the Padre’s Wing at Mission Santa Bárbara. 

These life-sized statues were funded by the William H. Hannon Foundation. William H. Hannon was a Southern California real estate developer. He arranged to have a hundred statues erected at various locations in California that were important in the life Junípero Serra. (One statue was placed outside California, at St. Louis University.) The gifted sculptor Mr. Hannon used to do this work was Dale Smith. The story of William H. Hannon and these inspiring Serra statues is available at http://missiontour.org/ . Information on this remarkable man’s legacy is available at http://www.hannonfoundation.org/. My friend Tom, who created the wonderful Mission Tour website says that the story is often told that William H. Hannon started the practice of rubbing the toes of the Serra statues for Good Luck. He would tell children "After all, he walked all across California, so those toes are lucky; maybe rubbing his toe will help on your next big test."

There are other important statues of Fr. Serra at various missions. The blind sculptor Arthur Putnam created a stone statue of an idealized Junípero Serra. It stands under a fir tree in the cemetery of Mission Dolores. One of the most popular Serra statues sits in Brand park, across from the San Fernando Rey mission. It is a magnet for children visiting the mission. A cast concrete statue showing a Franciscan Friar pivoting a young Native American boy towards his skyward pointing hand was dedicated in 1914 to Fr. Serra. The statue, which now stands at the far right of the mission's famous bell wall, was created by John Van Rennsselaer.

I am doing research into how dogs and cats got to California. Did they come with the padres? Could you point me toward possible sources? The period I am looking at predates secularization and I am looking for the types of animals that would have accompanied the padres, soldiers, and settlers. Thanks for any help you can provide me.

I have checked with a couple mission scholars to see what they can tell us. The consensus seems to be the missions and settlers probably did introduce both animals. Cats were used on Spanish ships to control rats. For much of the Spanish era, ships from San Blas (on the Baja peninsula) brought supplies and missionaries to California and a few wily cats may have escaped or been taken as pets. There is a story about one of the missionaries (Fr. Uria) who had a collection of cats.

Dogs were used to control sheep on the mission lands. All of the missions had large livestock herds. Mission San Luis Rey had the most sheep (26,100 in 1832) but San José, San Antonio de Padua, San Gabriel, and San Diego also had large herds. Scholars are pretty careful about making assertions that can’t be backed by written records or other hard evidence. One of the experts I consulted found archaeology reports for the Santa Clara mission site occupied from 1779-1822. The animal bones discovered at that site are: cattle, sheep, pig, cat, skunk, rabbit, small rodent (burrowing into stratum), chicken, rockfish, halibut, and sole.

How many different kinds of animals were at Mission San Juan Capistrano? Is it different from any of the other missions?

All of the missions had extensive livestock herds. San Juan Capistrano had large numbers of cattle (ranging between 10,000 - 14,000 head during their peak years of 1806-1827) and an average of about 12,000 sheep during the same years. Their annual reports show some goats (203 in 1820), pigs (195 in the same year) and, of course, horses (about 140 on average), which were used for transportation.

While San Juan Capistrano didn't have the largest herds of livestock in the mission chain, it was in the upper half. Incidentally, not all of the livestock were kept at the mission. They maintained ranchos throughout the mission territory. The ones that are well documented are Agua Caliente, de los Coyotes, Ciénega de las Ranas, de las Flores, del Refugio, de Santa Margarita, de San Mateo, and Tía Juana.

Here are available statistics on the number of cattle at each mission at the end of 1832, the last year for which reports were made:

Mission Cattle as of 12-31-1832
San Diego 4,500
San Luis Rey 27,500
San Juan Capistrano 10,900
San Gabriel 16,500
San Fernando Rey 7,000
San Buenaventura 4,050
Santa Barbara 1,800
Santa Inés 7,200
La Purísima 9,200
San Luis Obispo 2,500
San Miguel 3,710
San Antonio de Padua 6,000
Soledad 6,000
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo 2,100
San Juan Bautista 6,000
Santa Cruz 3,600
Santa Clara 10,000
San José 12,000
San Francisco de Asís 5,000
San Rafael 2,120
San Francisco Solano 5,500
TOTAL 151,180

Does the brand for the Santa Barbara Mission have a meaning behind it? My daughter's teacher told her to find the meaning of it.

The first thing that needs to be said is that the circle in this brand belongs at the top, as shown below. This brand is sometimes shown with the circle at the bottom, which is wrong.

Our opinion is that this symbol was probably based upon early Christian practice. The circle has been used since ancient times to symbolize eternity, a meaning adopted by the early Christians. It isn’t as clear what the bottom is intended to depict. It may be a symbolic tree signifying life, which together with the circle would mean eternal life. You also sometimes see the bottom portion of the brand done with straight lines, more like a cross. The circle and a depiction of a cross were frequently used together, signifying the persistence of Christianity for all eternity. If your daughter’s teacher has another answer we would love to hear it. The answer we have provided reflects the opinion of three mission scholars who between them have written about a dozen books on the Spanish missions but none claims to be an expert on cattle brands.

What type of cattle were raised at Mission San Antonio de Padua? Was there a cattle brand used? If so, what is it?

They were beef (not dairy) cattle. We do not have information on the breeds that were imported, but will research this and let you know if we find out more information. All of the missions had a cattle brand. The San Antonio Brand is shown below.  We sell a special collector card that shows all the Cattle Brands

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was an extremely important mission because of its proximity to the capital of Alta California, in Monterey, and because it was headquarters for the mission chain from 1770-1803. However it did not have the large herds of livestock found at many of the other missions. On December 31, 1832, two years before secularization of the missions, the padres reported the following animals present:

Cattle 2,100
Sheep 3,300
Horses 410
Mules 8
Total Livestock 5,818

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was an extremely important mission because of its proximity to the capital of Alta California, in Monterey, and because it was headquarters for the mission chain from 1770-1803. However it did not have the large herds of livestock found at many of the other missions. On December 31, 1832, two years before secularization of the missions, the padres reported the following animals present:

Cattle 2,100
Sheep 3,300
Horses 410
Mules 8
Total Livestock 5,818

By way of comparison, San Luis Rey (which had the largest herds) had 57,330 animals present at that date.

The front of the mission (what you see from the parking lot) looks quite similar to what you would have seen in the 19th century. The church and bell tower are on the right and there is a long archway extending to the left of the church (there were 24 arches when this was an active mission, 19 of which have survived.) Santa Inés was one of the last missions built, operating from 1804 to about 1850.

During the mission days there was full quadrangle of connected buildings. The front part of the quadrangle (the buildings behind the arches and corridor) consisted of quarters for the padres and offices in the padre's wing. There were workshops, a tannery, repair shops, a hay barn, and stables around the sides and back. The Indian Housing was to the left of the quadrangle, in several separate long narrow buildings.

I have incorporated many CA Mission architectural concepts into my homes renovation in SO CAL. I would like to view an example of a mission livestock inventory sheet. I want to use the friars handwriting exemplar as a guide to produce the metal house numbers. Where can I view a document like this either on line or in a publication?

When I read your question I thought of the written reports the padres had to submit each year to the authorities in New Spain. The reports listed numbers of livestock, crop production, the number of sacraments administered, etc. And they all contain numbers written by the Franciscans that will satisfy the question. These reports are available at:

Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library

2201 Laguna Street Old Mission

Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Telephone: (805) 682-4713

Hours of Service: Tues.-Fri. 9:00 am-12:00 pm and 1:00 pm- 4:00 pm Sat. 9:00 am-12:00 noon and 1:00 pm-4:00 pm Closed on Sundays, Mondays, and holidays.

The actual construction of the mission buildings usually began with the construction of temporary structures, with the work done by the founding missionaries and the soldiers and neophytes who were part of the founding party. The mission buildings (the church, padres quarters, quadrangle, neophyte housing, storehouses etc.) evolved over decades and in most missions, construction and repair was continuous. The building was done under the overall supervision of one of the padresbut the actual work was performed by the Indian neophytes.

The missions had most of the same tools that you would have found in any civilized country in late 18th century. They brought tools with them and early in the history of each mission high priority was given to creating workshops (carpentry shops, a blacksmith shop etc.). The initial buildings were made of wood and local materials. Ultimately, they built buildings of adobe brick, using the local soil and hay.

Mission San José was the 14th mission built in California - 28 years after the mission beginnings in San Diego, so there was more of an infrastructure in place to support its establishment. It was one of four missions established in 1897 under the leadership of Fr. Fermín Lasuén, the second Father President. The area was identified by a scouting party in 1795. Goods and implements for the new mission were sent from Mexico.

Fr. Lausén personally led the founding party which set out from Mission Santa Clara on June 9, 1797. On June 11 they raised a cross at the spot. The initial buildings were crude wooden structures. Santa Clara sent six hundred cattle and some sheep to begin the mission herd. A gothic style church (known as Old St. Joseph) was built on the site of the mission. It was relocated to Burlingame in 1982 and the original church reconstructed using authentic materials - mission-era sized adobe, hand made tiles, and beaded glass chandeliers modeled after the originals.

San Luis Rey de Francia was secularized in 1834, and the buildings were stripped and abandoned in subsequent years. In 1846 some of the buildings were occupied by the U.S. Army during the Mexican American War. The famous Indian scout, Kit Carson was with the army detachment encamped at the mission.

Even though San Luis Rey was returned to the Church in 1865 the mission was essentially abandoned between 1865-1892. During this time the quadrangle collapsed and portions of the church caved in. A group of Mexican Franciscans from Zacatecas arrived in 1892, and began rebuilding the mission. Rebuilding continued well into the 20th century and still continues. Restorers tried to use authentic materials and adhere to Fr. Antonio Peyri's original design but also, where necessary, they used materials that would meet modern safety standards. In 1926 a corner of the campanario collapsed and had to be repaired, and I understand that reinforced concrete was used. During the reconstruction of the church the reredos had to be recreated without any pictures or drawings of the original, and the polychrome bultos were designed to fit with the neoclassical style of the side altars. Another example of reconstruction is the entrance and steps into the Lavandería which were rebuilt using brick.

When any mission was first "founded", the organizing party of padres, soldiers and neophytes from nearby missions had to erect temporary crude structures out of wood and other local materials. Gradually over the next few years more elaborate buildings were constructed, typically with adobe bricks. Construction on the present San José church started in 1805, about eight years after the mission was founded. The church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1868, partially restored in 1916 and 1950 and extensively reconstructed in 1982-85.

This varies by mission. The missions were secularized and most of the land and buildings sold starting in 1833-34. Some neophytes continued to live on or near the missions for a decade or more, and some churches continue to operate (Santa Barbara and Santa Inés, for example, have pretty much been in continuous operation since they were founded.) Other missions crumbled into dust (Soledad, for example).

A portion of the original mission lands were restored to the Catholic church after California became part of the United States (President Lincoln returned some missions, like San Juan Capistrano, for example.) Efforts were made to restore many of these historic buildings over the next century. The restoration effort gathered steam in the early years of the 20th century.

Today some of these restored missions function as parish churches (San Fernando Rey, for example). At other missions (San Francisco de Asís, for example) the original mission church is used as a chapel for the larger parish church next door. A seminary (to train future priests) was located at Mission Santa Barbara, which also has rooms housing the official mission archives. A few missions are still occupied by Franciscans (San Luis Rey, for example). Other mission ultimately fell into private hands and were later sold or given to the state, and are now the nucleus of a state park (La Purísima, for example). The land has changed around all the missions except San Antonio de Padua which still looks much as it did in the mission era.

So, in summary, a lot has changed in the role the missions play in society and the activities that take place there. However the essence of the mission system is still intact. The missions are [for the most part] in the same location, contain a mission church and some of the original grounds, and they display precious historic objects that are authentic – all of which help us envision how the missions were over two hundred years ago.

There was a drawing of the San José Mission layout done in 1854 but it is hard to read. An oversimplified colored version we have used in lectures appears below:

The American Buildings Survey website contains a picture taken of Mission San José in 1860s, when ruins of the original buildings were still standing. [inline:sanjos1865.jpg] San José Mission c. 1865

The present mission church contains fragments of the original structure but was largely reconstructed in 1982-85.

San Buenaventura is a beautiful mission. I assume you are building a model. Fortunately, San Buenaventura was one of the missions for which architectural drawings were done in 1933, during the Great Depression when unemployed architects and photographers were hired by the government to document historic buildings. There are drawings that show the front, back, side, and interior outlines of the mission. The scale on these drawings will give you the exact measurements which are always better than rough measurements. You can find these drawings and additional information on the San Buenaventura mission (and other missions) under the individual mission section of our site.

How many missions had clay tile roofs? When were tile roofs first constructed? How did they make the tile?

The early mission buildings used dry tule thatch for the roofs. In 1776 San Luis Obispo was attacked by Indians shooting flaming arrows. A fire started on the roof of the padres' quarters and soon spread, consuming all the buildings except for the church and a granary. There were other attacks in the following years.

The missionaries at San Luis Obispo remembered the tiled roofs in their native Spain (tile was used for hundreds of years in Europe) and began to experiment with making tile locally. By 1790 the use of tile had spread to all the missions. The tiles were made by taking local clay and working it in pits under the hoofs of animals. Squares of clay of the right thickness were patted over curved wooden forms on top of sand that kept it from adhering. The edges were then trimmed and the clay put in the sun to dry. Clays were then baked in a kiln. I am attaching a picture of a display set up on the grounds of Mission San Buenaventura. This includes an olive press, and to the left, some of the mission tiles and part of a kiln like those used to bake the tiles.

The early mission tiles were about 22” long and tapered from 12” to 20” across.

I don’t have an aerial drawing but I can give you some facts and pictures that will help you draw the mission complex.

San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) was built as a quadrangle, like most of the missions. There was a cemetery next to the mission (on the left as you face the mission). The Mission Dolores church (now described as a chapel because of the large modern church next door) occupied one corner of the quadrangle, and the padre’s quarters extended along the front. The rest of the quadrangle consisted of workshops, storage areas etc. Unfortunately, as the city of San Francisco grew, the buildings that formed much of the quadrangle were taken down. I am enclosing an early (1865) photo of the front when it was still pretty much intact.

As the years went on, the mission cemetery was reduced in size. Also, by 1876, much of what remained of the other buildings to the right of the church were demolished in order to erect a new larger parish church. In about 1933 the government sent out architects to draw historic buildings all over the country, including Mission Dolores. I am enclosing a diagram that they produced. Unfortunately, all that was left of the original complete mission (then and today) was the church and cemetery, which is shown (and measurements provided) in the drawing.

Can you identify the artist and help save or replace a badly damaged drawing of "the mission near Oceanside" - San Luis Rey? I was an altar boy in the 1960's and this drawing means a lot to my wife and me.

The image you have is by Ernest William Watson. You can find a replacement print for about $12.00. Restoring the old print is going to be much more expensive and may not be worth the expense.

The early mission buildings used dry tule thatch for the roofs. In 1776 San Luis Obispo was attacked by Indians shooting flaming arrows. A fire started on the roof of the padres' quarters and soon spread, consuming all the buildings except for the church and a granary. There were other attacks in the following years. The missionaries at San Luis Obispo remembered the tiled roofs in their native Spain (tile was used for hundreds of years in Europe) and began to experiment with making tile locally. By 1790 the use of tile had spread to all the missions.

The tiles were made by taking local clay and working it in pits under the hoofs of animals. Squares of clay of the right thickness were patted over curved wooden forms on top of sand that kept it from adhering. The edges were then trimmed and the clay put in the sun to dry. Clays were then baked in a kiln. I am attaching a picture of a display set up on the grounds of Mission San Buenaventura. This includes an olive press, and to left, some of the mission tiles and part of a kiln like those used to bake the tiles.

The early mission tiles were about 22” long and tapered from 12” to 20” across.

Searching the web I recently discovered a sketch on your site relevant to some research I am doing on early contact between the Catholic Church and Aboriginal people in Australia. The particular sketch was of a visit by the French explorer, La Perouse, to a Californian mission in 1787 --- the year before he arrived in Australia and subsequently disappeared with his entire expedition in the Pacific. I am seeking information about the following and would appreciate any help you could give:

(a) Is the artist who produced this sketch known and is there any other source of the sketch other than in your collection?

(b)Can the mission depicted in the sketch be identified?

(c) If so, can the Native American tribe be identified?

(d) Can any of the Europeans in the sketch be identified?

(e) Finally, what copyright conditions do I need to meet if I want to use the illustrations in both lectures and (possibly) in a book I am researching?

We can provide some further information on the sketch:

a. The original drawing was done by Gaspard Duché de Vaney, but was lost. A watercolor from this original is attributed to either Tomás de Suria or José Cardero. Most cite Cardero.

b. If you require a high resolution copy of the drawing and an academic source I believe that it is available at the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley (the Robert B. Honeyman Jr. Collection.)

c. The mission in question was San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, the second mission in the chain of missions established by the Spanish in the territory they called Alta California. The mission was founded on June 3, 1770 and initially located at the presidio in Monterey (which became the headquarters of both Alta and Baja Califonria.) In 1771 the mission was relocated a few miles south in the Carmel Valley.

d. The principal Indian linguistic group in the Monterey area was Costanoan, primary the Mutsun tribelet. For details see Costanoan by Richard Levy in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8 (California), pp. 486-495.

e. The principal padre was the (second) Father President of the mission chain, Fr. Fermín Lasuén. I do not have information on the other Europeans.

A day after we answered this question we received the following email: Thank you very much for your very prompt and most helpful reply to my inquiry.

What games did the people or kids play in the missions? Would you describe and give the rules of the game please. Thanks.

Many of the most popular games used sticks. Mission La Purísima reenacts a game called WAURI at the Mission Life Days that are held there. They use seven sticks (sometimes the neophytes used up to 12 sticks) which they throw in the air. The kids who are playing have to memorize the position of the sticks. The pile of sticks is then covered with a cloth and the participants draw what the pile looked like. Whoever is closest wins. Adults played this game with larger sticks, and often bet on the results. There is a really old drawing, made in 1816, showing a group of Indians in a circle with a pile of sticks, betting on the outcome.

At the Mission Life Days they also play with a mission era toy called BULL ROAR. The toy is a piece of flat wood, cut like a propeller. You put a string at the end and whirl this around your head and it makes a humming sound.

The Indians played many "field" games. The "balls" were made of natural material, stuffed animal skins, natural wooden knots, polished stones, hemp etc. Shinny games in which the ball or puck is moved with a stick were quite common.

There were many variations but these were team games (with three to ten players, typically) with rules and an object (to get the ball past the other team, through posts or into a hole.)

There is a terrific book Grass Games & Moon Races by Jeannine Gendar that describes the games and toys of the California Indians. The author takes great care to show how the games fit into the Indian culture and how they varied by tribe.

The highest population at each mission appears on our California Mission Collector Cards. The peak population at each mission, summarized from these reference cards, is shown below. POPULATION OF THE CALIFORNIA MISSIONS Data shows Neophyte Population

 
Mission(Listed by date of founding) Year of Highest Population Peak Neophyte Population 1832 Neophyte Population
San Diego de Alcalá 1824 1,828 1,455
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo 1795 876 185
San Antonio de Padua 1806 1,217 640
San Gabriel Arcángel 1817 1,701 1,320
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa 1804 832 231
San Francisco de Asís 1821 1,801 204
San Juan Capistrano 1812 1,361 900
Santa Clara de Asís 1795 1,514 1,125
San Buenaventura 1816 1,328 668
Santa Barbara 1803 1,792 628
La Purísima Concepción 1804 1,520 372
Santa Cruz 1796 523 284
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad 1804 687 339
San José 1831 1,886 1,800
San Juan Bautista 1823 1,248 916
San Miguel Arcángel 1814 1,076 658
San Fernando Rey de España 1811 1,081 782
San Luis Rey de Francia 1825 2,869 2,788
Santa Inés Virgen y Mártir 1815 768 360
San Rafael Arcángel 1826 1,051 300
San Francisco Solano 1832 996 996

Data derived from Annual Reports submitted to Father President. © Pentacle Press 2005

The highest population at each mission appears on our California Mission Collector Cards. The peak population at each mission, summarized from these reference cards, is shown below. POPULATION OF THE CALIFORNIA MISSIONS Data shows Neophyte Population

 
Mission(Listed by date of founding) Year of Highest Population Peak Neophyte Population 1832 Neophyte Population
San Diego de Alcalá 1824 1,828 1,455
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo 1795 876 185
San Antonio de Padua 1806 1,217 640
San Gabriel Arcángel 1817 1,701 1,320
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa 1804 832 231
San Francisco de Asís 1821 1,801 204
San Juan Capistrano 1812 1,361 900
Santa Clara de Asís 1795 1,514 1,125
San Buenaventura 1816 1,328 668
Santa Barbara 1803 1,792 628
La Purísima Concepción 1804 1,520 372
Santa Cruz 1796 523 284
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad 1804 687 339
San José 1831 1,886 1,800
San Juan Bautista 1823 1,248 916
San Miguel Arcángel 1814 1,076 658
San Fernando Rey de España 1811 1,081 782
San Luis Rey de Francia 1825 2,869 2,788
Santa Inés Virgen y Mártir 1815 768 360
San Rafael Arcángel 1826 1,051 300
San Francisco Solano 1832 996 996

Data derived from Annual Reports submitted to Father President. © Pentacle Press 2005

I understand that some people consider Queen of Angeles located in Down Town Los Angeles a mission. Is this true? If not, what would it be called? I'm interested because my son is studying about the missions and I want to take him to the nearest mission. If the location in L.A. is a mission, then I'll take him there. If not, I'll need to look into taking him to one of the missions that you have listed.

The first mission in what is today the greater Los Angeles area was San Gabriel Arcángel, founded on September 8, 1771. The church in Los Angeles (the official name was Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles) was founded in1784 as an asistencia (or sub-mission) to Mission San Gabriel.

The site chosen was at the first Spanish pueblo of Los Angeles, founded by Governor Don Felipe de Neve on September 4, 1781. There was originally a small chapel on the spot. A more elaborate church was constructed between 1814-1822. Many of the area missions donated supplies to the new church. San Gabriel, for example donated two barrels of brandy, a bulto of San Vincente Ferrer and two bells, which are still in use today.

The Old Plaza Church has gone through extensive remodeling and expansions over the years, most recently in 1965 when the church suffered extensive earthquake damage.

So the answer to your question is that this church was a sub-mission originally erected during the mission era. I would think your son could do a wonderful project on this important structure but you will have to check with his teacher to see if this would be permitted, or whether they want the students to focus on one of the 21 primary missions.

San José was one of the most successful missions in the chain but it was a troublesome spot. Runaway neophytes from Mission Dolores hid in this area. The local tribes were known for their fighting spirit. San José was also the site of a large Indian uprising (1827) under the leadership of a neophyte from San José, an Indian named Estanislao (Stanislaus County is named after him.)

The mission was often used as a base for military expeditions. The mission was protected by a small group of soldiers (on average five were stationed at each mission) but, as noted above, this permanent contingent was augmented by soldiers from the presidio (fort) in San Francisco.

The mission was famous for its music. Under the leadership of Father Narciso Durán (who later became Father President of the mission chain) the mission had a thirty-piece band and renowned choir. Concerts at the mission attracted people from all over.

Who founded Mission San Gabriel? I thought it was Father Serra, but some sites say that Father Cambon founded it. Who is it?

Here is the story. It gets a little complicated. The Father President of the California Missions, who was initially the Blessed Junípero Serra, is credited with "founding" the missions established during their tenure. The Father Presidents did indeed recommend where the next mission(s) where to be established, supported exploration for the best site (and sometimes participated in that effort), chose the initial missionaries, etc. While he was Father President,  Fr. Serra was closely and totally involved in the founding of the initial mission at San Diego, said the first mass in Monterey, and was deeply involved in the ultimate relocation of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo from the presidio in Monterey to Carmel Valley. His degree of involvement in the other varied.

Fr. Serra selected the initial site for San Gabriel but the actual founding was done by two padres, Frs. Cambon (the senior missionary) and Somera. In our publications on the mission we distinguish between the Founder President (in this case Fr. Serra) and the Founding Missionaries (Frs. Cambon and Somera) and list each on the collector cards we sell. In the case of many of the missions, yet another missionary was often the one who really "developed" the mission. In the case of San Gabriel, Father Antonio Cruzado was in charge of the building of a great portion of the original church, which is very similar in design to the Cathedral of Córdoba, Spain. This is where Fr. Cruzado was born and reared.

I am San Pasqual Indian and I am doing more research on the history of our tribe and was wondering, where could I obtain the history or any records of the chapel in the San Pasqual Valley which was part of the San Diego de Alcalá mission.

I suggest you contact Dr. John Johnson at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. He and his colleagues are very knowledgeable about the Native Americans and their early history, and often do genealogical and other research for individuals and tribes. The contact information is:

Museum of Natural History Santa Barbara Museum (www.sbnature.org)

2559 Puesta Del Sol

Santa Barbara, CA 93105 (805) 682-4711

There were 21 missions in the territory that was referred to as Alta (Upper) California.

The first, San Diego, was founded in 1769, the last, called San Francisco Solano, was founded in 1823. There were no missions north of Sonoma.

The Russians had a settlement in the area called Fort Ross, founded in 1812.

The missions were concentrated near the coast. There were plans for inland missions but they never materialized.

Many of the twenty-one missions had asistencia or sub-missions that extended the reach of the mission. One that is still functioning is San Antonio de Pala, an asistencia of San Luis Rey. This was founded in 1815, about 17 years after the primary mission was established. It is about thirty miles east of the main mission.

If you go to our website www.missionscalifornia.com and navigate to the map (go to Mission Gateway, then Interactive Map) you will see a map of California showing all the missions. If you scroll over the name of the mission, a picture of the mission and the date it was founded with appear in a pop up screen.

What was the most important item at Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad? I know they display a bell at the front of the mission today, but I don't know if this was considered the most important item.

First of all let me congratulate you for using the full and correct name for this important mission.

During the mission era, the church itself was usually considered the most important and central part of the mission. If you are asking what is the most important original object that remains, the bell would be a good choice. The bell was cast by Pablo Ruelas in Mexico City in 1794. This is a treasured, authentic object.

Another important part of this mission’s history to be sure to see when you visit the mission is the place where Governor José Joaquín de Arrillaga is buried. He died at the mission on July 24, 1814 while he was visiting his old friend Fr.Florencio Ibáñez, the senior padre. There is a sign marking the spot.

Our visitor wrote back: Dear Mr. McLaughlin. Thank you so much for your speedy reply to my questions. You must be quite an expert on California missions! What is Pentacle Press?

I learned a lot about the missions when I was writing my book Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets, and Priests. In addition I belong to the California Mission Studies Association which has many real mission scholars among its members. When we receive really difficult questions I turn to experts in that group for help with the answers.

Pentacle Press is a publishing company that has been producing printed books, eBooks and other material on California history, the mission era, and the California Missions since 2003. Our California Mission Collector Cards are trading cards that show a picture of each mission on the front and contain a lot of interesting information on the back.

The missions ultimately extended over a distance of about 650 miles, from San Diego to Sonoma. There were 21 missions, so on average, they were about 30 miles apart.

The more important rule / general objective the padres followed, however was to have each mission about a days' journey apart. Of course the topography, the location of Indian Tribes, the availability of water – these and other factors that influenced the specific location selected for each mission, so the actual distances, as you can see from looking at a map of the missions, varied significantly from the average.

We would like to print or download some information about Mission Santa Inez for my 9 year old's school project. Where can we find some free information using the computer to search the Internet?

First of all, we should clarify the spelling. The mission prefers the spelling Santa Inés. The adjacent town, the valley and even the Chumash Casino in the area all use Santa Inez. Go figure.

There is a lot on line. We have a 4-5 minute slide show of the mission on our site in the Santa Inés facts section. Each page can be "paused" and your child can take notes. You can also find a complete Time Line on the mission there, and some drawings in the facts section and in the Galleries that might prove useful for his / her report. Please use our search feature as tons of information on the missions is provided in the Ask the Experts archives.

Santa Inés has several special attractions: an outstanding collection of old vestments, some from Baja that are older than the mission; a tranquil and well designed outdoor Stations of the Cross (this is modern) and most important of all, well preserved ruins of the mission mills. The story of the Santa Inés mills is fascinating.

In 1819 the resident padre, Fr. Francisco Uria, selected a site about a half-mile from the church along the banks of Alamo Pintado Creek. Here he erected a gristmill with two connecting reservoirs. He also wanted to erect a fulling mill for the treatment of wool. This was accomplished in 1820 under the supervision of Joseph Chapman, who was captured during the pirate raid of 1818. Chapman – a self taught mechanical genius - supervised the construction of "a typical New England overshot wheel, the power from which pounded and turned woolen cloth at the same time it was being washed by a steady stream of fresh water."

Miraculously the mill ruins have survived. The last owners, Ellen and Harry Knill, carefully preserved the site and put roofs on the mill buildings. Recently this entire complex was acquired by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, which is going to open the site to the public. At the present time you can view the complex from the back of the parking lot of the mission.

We have a historical slide show on our site about San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in our section about the mission. Play this presentation you will find a Time Line. There is a pause button that will let you copy down any dates / events in which you have a special interest.

San Luis Rey is one of the few remaining missions still operated by the Franciscans.

First of all the mission is an active church where there are regular services, weddings, baptisms, and funerals.

There is also a well thought through program at this mission for supporting visits by schoolchildren and others. The mission offers both guided and self-guided tours, maintains a museum, and has a gift shop that is open seven days a week.

San Luis Rey also offers retreats, for men and women, ranging from “A Day Away” to a regular weekend retreat that begins on Friday evening. Certain rooms in the quadrangle are available for conferences and meetings.

Finally, this is one of the few missions that has expanded its cemetery, most recently in 1994. The mission is still offering burial sites and Columbarium niches (for cremated remains) which are available to members of all faiths.

According to our experts on Spanish terminology, the Spaniards used three words to describe what we would understand today as a "Mission." They were doctrina, reducción, misión. Mission comes from the Latin word mittere, meaning "to send."

Mission Santa Barbara is one of the few missions never to be totally abandoned. It is the only mission to have been under the continuous care of Franciscans since it was founded.

This was a very important mission in the final decades of the mission era. It became the headquarters for the mission chain after 1833. Starting in 1841, for almost five years, the first Catholic Bishop of California resided at Santa Bárbara. It also became a seminary for theological students for the Franciscan priesthood. The mission complex was expanded significantly between 1956-58 to meet the needs of the seminary.

At the present time, Santa Barbara serves as a Parish Church, a Franciscan monastery, a seminary for Franciscans, and it also functions as a repository for historical mission records.

San Francisco de Asís, popularly called Mission Dolores, has been in pretty much continuous use since it was dedicated on April 3, 1791. The mission declined after secularization and portions of the mission quadrangle were sold or leased to business firms. There was even a tavern in one of the buildings. However even in those days the chapel was used for religious services.

By 1876 the city had grown a lot and the community needed a bigger Parish church, so a large Victorian-style church was built next door. This structure was severely damaged by the 1906 earthquake and had to be taken down. Between 1913-1918 the large stone mission-style church you see today was built. However, during all these years up to today the original mission chapel has been used for special religious services.

The last time I was there a boy was being baptized in the original Mission Dolores chapel.

I have been told that the Santa Barbara Mission was built on a hill so ships could see it from the coast. Is this true or were there other reasons for choosing that site?

The Santa Barbara presidio (the Spanish fort) was built in 1782, four years before the mission. The mission was delayed because Governor Neve asked the Viceroy to withhold construction funds until the governor’s proposals for a reform of the mission system could be approved. He intended to implement these changes (which involved leaving the Indians in their villages and creating a smaller mission complex) beginning in Santa Barbara.

By the time this was all resolved Neve was replaced by Pedro Fages and Fr. Serra had died. The actual location of the mission was finally decided by Fr. Fermín Lasuén, Junípero Serra’s successor as Father President of the Mission chain. My understanding is that both Governor Neve and Fr. Serra thought that the mission should be on high ground at or near a site called Tanayan by the Indians and El Pedregoso by the Spaniards – the name in both languages means rocky mound, and the mission was built in this area.

This location was an appropriate distance from the presidio (one and a half miles) and, yes, it did have a magnificent view of the valley, the presidio, and the sea. However, the exact location chosen for the mission was dictated largely because of its proximity to water resources, which the Spaniards had learned was critical for the success of a mission.

It seems quite logical to assume that the visibility of the mission from the sea might have been discussed but remember that the initial buildings were simple log structures. The present imposing (and quite visible) church is actually the fourth church on the site, built between 1815-1820, almost forty years later.

Is the Mission Inn in Riverside, California a mission or just a reproduction that was given a Mission-like name?

The Mission Inn is a Spanish / Moorish-style hotel built in 1902. It took 30 years to complete. It is not a mission nor is it built on the site of a mission although it is a National Historic Landmark. The missions nearest you are San Fernando Rey and San Gabriel. A brief slideshow of those missions is available on our website www.missionscalifornia.com

The answer is a little complex because you asked a very general question. The ultimate decision to settle Alta California and build a chain of missions was made by the King of Spain. The King's representative in New Spain was a Viceroy, located in México City who organized the effort. The actual building of the missions was the joint responsibility of the Governor of Alta and Baja California and the Father President of the Mission Chain (who was initially Junípero Serra.) The Father President was involved in selecting each site. The actual building of a given mission was the responsibility of the two missionaries assigned to that mission. San Luis Rey was built under the overall direction of Father President Lausén. The lead missionary was Father Peyri, who served at the mission for 34 years.

The answer is a little complex because you asked a very general question. The ultimate decision to settle Alta California and build a chain of missions was made by the King of Spain. The King's representative in New Spain was a Viceroy, located in México City who organized the effort. The actual building of the missions was the joint responsibility of the Governor of Alta and Baja California and the Father President of the Mission Chain (who was initially Junípero Serra.) The Father President was involved in selecting each site. The actual building of a given mission was the responsibility of the two missionaries assigned to that mission. San Luis Rey was built under the overall direction of Father President Lausén. The lead missionary was Father Peyri, who served at the mission for 34 years.

Many forces worked together to bring an end to the mission system. Perhaps the fundamental reason was that the missions had served their purpose as the primary means of "settling" California and transforming it from a wilderness.

By 1830s the mission controlled lands covered about 1/3 of the future state, and the total population had grown to about 30,000 - in the missions, presidios and towns that were formed (the most prominent of which would become Los Angeles.) As the number of settlers grew they came to covet the lands and property of the missions.

California became part of México in 1821. There was considerable support in Mexico City to end the mission system and the control of these valuable properties by the Catholic Church. Finally in 1831-32 the missions were "secularized" by the Mexican government. Land was distributed to the Indians (most of who were quickly hoodwinked out of their holdings.) The major beneficiaries were former soldiers, settlers and others with influence that were given large land grants. Many of the former mission churches became parish churches but some were abandoned and the Indians largely dispersed into the towns and ranches, or moved to the interior.

Many forces worked together to bring an end to the mission system. Perhaps the fundamental reason was that the missions had served their purpose as the primary means of "settling" California and transforming it from a wilderness.

By 1830s the mission controlled lands covered about 1/3 of the future state, and the total population had grown to about 30,000 - in the missions, presidios and towns that were formed (the most prominent of which would become Los Angeles.) As the number of settlers grew they came to covet the lands and property of the missions.

California became part of México in 1821. There was considerable support in Mexico City to end the mission system and the control of these valuable properties by the Catholic Church. Finally in 1831-32 the missions were "secularized" by the Mexican government. Land was distributed to the Indians (most of who were quickly hoodwinked out of their holdings.) The major beneficiaries were former soldiers, settlers and others with influence that were given large land grants. Many of the former mission churches became parish churches but some were abandoned and the Indians largely dispersed into the towns and ranches, or moved to the interior.

Can you tell me the real purpose for the Spaniards establishment of the missions. Was it a political move to ensure their hold on California or was primarily a means for the Catholic Church to convert the natives? I understand that it was probably a combination of the two but did the state or the church have the primary objective? And to what extent did slavery of the Native Americans play into the building and running of the missions?

The Spaniards used the mission system to settle and protect its long and exposed frontier. The territory north of Mexico City was referred to as the Northern Frontier.

The driving purpose (from the King’s perspective) was to protect and hold territory Spain had “discovered” and claimed. Missions were the fastest and most economical way to settle this vast territory. It simply was not practical or affordable to send large numbers of soldiers and settlers. Missions were not unique to California. With some local modifications the Spaniards used the mission system in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and in many parts of Latin America to settle their “frontier.”

From the church’s perspective (and for individual missionaries) the most important objective of the mission was to convert the natives. A pair of padres was assigned to each mission; one who focused on spiritual affairs and the other managed temporal matters. In reality recruiting neophytes, and building and operating what became a self-contained large community of hundreds of inhabitants took the majority of the time and effort of the padres. Some missionaries, perhaps the majority, would have preferred to function as simple priests.

However, the missionaries knew that in order to survive in the wilderness and receive the continued support of the crown, the missions had to become viable communities. When financial support from Spain began to diminish starting about 1810, the missions were under great pressure to produce more food and goods (cured cattle hides and tallow) that they could trade for necessary supplies and manufactured goods, so the emphasis shifted even more to the operational aspects of the mission. By this time, too, the established missions were far flung enterprises with one or two mills, vineyards, farms and, ranches spread over as much as 40-50 miles.

So you are right, the purpose of the missions was both political and spiritual. However Spain was a Kingdom and the decision to settle California was made by the King and funded by the state. The church would have preferred to see this happen much earlier than it did.

As to your last question, the mission by definition was not just a church but a community and no mission could have survived or functioned without the Native Americans. They did all the work, from constructing and repairing buildings to planting the fields and tending the herds to (in the case of the women) making clothing, cooking, and washing.

Theoretically the Native Americans were converted and joined the mission voluntarily and this appears to be true, particularly in the early years. One doubts though, whether the Native Americans had much of a grasp of what daily life would be like. The California Indians lived off the land and it must have been a shock to move into a highly regimented, agricultural society where one was expected to work a good deal of the day. From what I have read, some of the Native Americans, particularly those born in the missions, came to prefer this way of life. Others tried to escape. Run-a-ways were a big problem (10-15% of the population).

Leadership was also a factor here. The most successful missions had inspired padres who really cared about the neophytes and created a climate where the majority wanted to stay. Fr. Peyri at San Luis Rey was such a man, and when he finally left the mission to return to Spain he had to escape at night because the neophytes tried to prevent him from going and when they discovered he was gone scores of them rode to San Diego to try to prevent his ship from sailing and get him to change his mind.

If you are interested in this topic you might want to read Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians by Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo.

Can you tell me the real purpose for the Spaniards establishment of the missions. Was it a political move to ensure their hold on California or was primarily a means for the Catholic Church to convert the natives? I understand that it was probably a combination of the two but did the state or the church have the primary objective? And to what extent did slavery of the Native Americans play into the building and running of the missions?

The Spaniards used the mission system to settle and protect its long and exposed frontier. The territory north of Mexico City was referred to as the Northern Frontier.

The driving purpose (from the King’s perspective) was to protect and hold territory Spain had “discovered” and claimed. Missions were the fastest and most economical way to settle this vast territory. It simply was not practical or affordable to send large numbers of soldiers and settlers. Missions were not unique to California. With some local modifications the Spaniards used the mission system in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and in many parts of Latin America to settle their “frontier.”

From the church’s perspective (and for individual missionaries) the most important objective of the mission was to convert the natives. A pair of padres was assigned to each mission; one who focused on spiritual affairs and the other managed temporal matters. In reality recruiting neophytes, and building and operating what became a self-contained large community of hundreds of inhabitants took the majority of the time and effort of the padres. Some missionaries, perhaps the majority, would have preferred to function as simple priests.

However, the missionaries knew that in order to survive in the wilderness and receive the continued support of the crown, the missions had to become viable communities. When financial support from Spain began to diminish starting about 1810, the missions were under great pressure to produce more food and goods (cured cattle hides and tallow) that they could trade for necessary supplies and manufactured goods, so the emphasis shifted even more to the operational aspects of the mission. By this time, too, the established missions were far flung enterprises with one or two mills, vineyards, farms and, ranches spread over as much as 40-50 miles.

So you are right, the purpose of the missions was both political and spiritual. However Spain was a Kingdom and the decision to settle California was made by the King and funded by the state. The church would have preferred to see this happen much earlier than it did.

As to your last question, the mission by definition was not just a church but a community and no mission could have survived or functioned without the Native Americans. They did all the work, from constructing and repairing buildings to planting the fields and tending the herds to (in the case of the women) making clothing, cooking, and washing.

Theoretically the Native Americans were converted and joined the mission voluntarily and this appears to be true, particularly in the early years. One doubts though, whether the Native Americans had much of a grasp of what daily life would be like. The California Indians lived off the land and it must have been a shock to move into a highly regimented, agricultural society where one was expected to work a good deal of the day. From what I have read, some of the Native Americans, particularly those born in the missions, came to prefer this way of life. Others tried to escape. Run-a-ways were a big problem (10-15% of the population).

Leadership was also a factor here. The most successful missions had inspired padres who really cared about the neophytes and created a climate where the majority wanted to stay. Fr. Peyri at San Luis Rey was such a man, and when he finally left the mission to return to Spain he had to escape at night because the neophytes tried to prevent him from going and when they discovered he was gone scores of them rode to San Diego to try to prevent his ship from sailing and get him to change his mind.

If you are interested in this topic you might want to read Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians by Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo.

Here is a list of mission abbreviations in common use and the special 'designations' that Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M. cited in his definitive multi-volume study The Missions and Missionaries of California, and smaller books on specific missions:

MISSION OFFICAL NAME ABBREVIATION / NICKNAME DESIGNATION
San Diego de Alcalá San Diego Mission Mother of the Missions
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission Carmel  
San Antonio de Padua San Antonio Mission  
San Gabriel Arcángel San Gabriel Mission Pride of the Missions
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission San Luis Obispo  
San Francisco de Asís Mission Dolores  
San Juan Capistrano San Juan Capistrano Jewel of the Missions
Santa Clara de Asís Mission Santa Clara  
San Buenaventura San Buenaventura Mission by the Sea
Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Queen of the Missions
La Purísima Concepción La Purísima  
Santa Cruz Mission Santa Cruz  
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Mission Soledad  
San José San José  
San Juan Bautista San Juan Bautista Mission of Music
San Miguel Arcángel San Miguel Mission  
San Fernando Rey de España San Fernando Rey Mission Mission of the Valley
San Luis Rey de Francia San Luis Rey Mission King of the Missions
Santa Inés Virgen y Mártir Mission Santa Inés Mission of the Passes
San Rafael Arcángel San Rafael Mission  
San Francisco Solano Mission Sonoma  

Here is a list of mission abbreviations in common use and the special 'designations' that Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M. cited in his definitive multi-volume study The Missions and Missionaries of California, and smaller books on specific missions:

MISSION OFFICAL NAME ABBREVIATION / NICKNAME DESIGNATION
San Diego de Alcalá San Diego Mission Mother of the Missions
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission Carmel  
San Antonio de Padua San Antonio Mission  
San Gabriel Arcángel San Gabriel Mission Pride of the Missions
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission San Luis Obispo  
San Francisco de Asís Mission Dolores  
San Juan Capistrano San Juan Capistrano Jewel of the Missions
Santa Clara de Asís Mission Santa Clara  
San Buenaventura San Buenaventura Mission by the Sea
Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Queen of the Missions
La Purísima Concepción La Purísima  
Santa Cruz Mission Santa Cruz  
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Mission Soledad  
San José San José  
San Juan Bautista San Juan Bautista Mission of Music
San Miguel Arcángel San Miguel Mission  
San Fernando Rey de España San Fernando Rey Mission Mission of the Valley
San Luis Rey de Francia San Luis Rey Mission King of the Missions
Santa Inés Virgen y Mártir Mission Santa Inés Mission of the Passes
San Rafael Arcángel San Rafael Mission  
San Francisco Solano Mission Sonoma  

What knowledge did the American colonists and the founding fathers have of the missions in California? Most American history classes spend time on the Plymouth Rock, Virginia, and Colonial activities. I don't have a good sense of what Colonial America knew of the west coast, or Texas or New Orleans for that matter. Timelines only show which events were concurrent, but they don't convey the relationship of the events happening in different parts of the US. What a great website.! Thank you.

Here are some facts and insights that help us understand what the American colonists might have known, and how both the knowledge of and interaction with California increased over time.

The Spaniards were a major force among the European powers in the Age of Discovery. By 1520 the Spaniards laid claim to over half of the known world, including most of the Americas. However when you review actual settlem ents by the Europeans in the new world, Spain’s development was most extensive in the southern half of the Americas. The Spaniards focus in what is today the United States started with the exploration of Florida in 1513.

The first successful permanent settlement in the United States was St. Augustine, Florida, founded by the Spaniards in 1565. They tried to expand up the coast. They established a fort on St. Catherine’s Island, south of present day Savannah, Georgia in 1566. They even sent missionaries into present day Virginia in 1570 but this settlement was overrun by Indians within a few weeks.

While the English had an early claim to this land, they did not begin to settle parts of present day United States until much later than the Spaniards. Their first attempt at the settlement of Virginia was in 1584, a decade and a half after the Spaniards. The first permanent settlement (at Jamestown) was in 1607. Massachusetts wasn’t settled by the Pilgrims until 1620. Charlestown was settled in 1670. During much of this period there was conflict between the English and the Spaniards. When the English, led by James Oglethorpe, settled Georgia (Savannah in 1733 and Augusta in 1736) conflicts between the English and Spaniards accelerated, and continued for decades.

So in part the answer to your question about the knowledge of the American Colonist about the Spanish possessions depends on whether you were a colonist in New England (where the major conflicts were with the French) or Georgia. During much of early U.S. Colonial history California was still a wilderness. It was only founded in 1769 less than a decade before the Declaration of Independence. There were maps showing (often inaccurately) the territory of California. The more scholarly among the colonists would have had some idea of Spanish territorial claims and known settlements. However the vast majority of the colonists would have focused on the struggles for territory that affected them most directly.

I asked Dr. Robert H. Jackson, a noted borderlands scholar for his perspective on what the early American colonists might have known about California. Here is his commentary: "At the time of the American Revolution English colonists /Americans knew very little about California, other than the fact that it existed. American ships did not begin to visit the coast of California until a decade or so after the American Revolution, in the 1790s and early 19th century. Moreover, the Spanish government did not publish information about California. The first travel accounts such as Captain George Vancouver's A Voyage of Discovery did not appear in print until much later (1798). Maps in the 18th century did include California. But there was a time lag of sorts in the incorporation of information."  Dr. Jackson sent me the map shown below. It was published in England in 1763, the year in which the Spaniards lost St. Augustine to the English.

As the new country of the United States expanded, knowledge of the original Spanish territories in the southwest - what the Spaniards called their Northern frontier - increased. By 1821 this entire area (extending from Texas into California) was part of the new country of México. American settlers pushed into Texas in large numbers in the 1820s. American trappers explored much of the southwest and west coast in these years. One of my favorite Mountain Men, Jedediah Strong Smith, visited the California missions in 1826-27. Ships from New England were regularly trading with the missions by the 1820s, as Dr. Jackson has noted. While some Americans settled in California during the Spanish era, the biggest influx came in the 1840s when California was part of México, as overland routes opened up and General Mariano Vallejo encouraged American immigration.

Ultimately, it was the conflict known as the Mexican American War (1846-48) that led to the inclusion of California into the United States. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), México ceded 55% of its territory to the United States (the territory included present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah).

What knowledge did the American colonists and the founding fathers have of the missions in California? Most American history classes spend time on the Plymouth Rock, Virginia, and Colonial activities. I don't have a good sense of what Colonial America knew of the west coast, or Texas or New Orleans for that matter. Timelines only show which events were concurrent, but they don't convey the relationship of the events happening in different parts of the US. What a great website.! Thank you.

Here are some facts and insights that help us understand what the American colonists might have known, and how both the knowledge of and interaction with California increased over time.

The Spaniards were a major force among the European powers in the Age of Discovery. By 1520 the Spaniards laid claim to over half of the known world, including most of the Americas. However when you review actual settlem ents by the Europeans in the new world, Spain’s development was most extensive in the southern half of the Americas. The Spaniards focus in what is today the United States started with the exploration of Florida in 1513.

The first successful permanent settlement in the United States was St. Augustine, Florida, founded by the Spaniards in 1565. They tried to expand up the coast. They established a fort on St. Catherine’s Island, south of present day Savannah, Georgia in 1566. They even sent missionaries into present day Virginia in 1570 but this settlement was overrun by Indians within a few weeks.

While the English had an early claim to this land, they did not begin to settle parts of present day United States until much later than the Spaniards. Their first attempt at the settlement of Virginia was in 1584, a decade and a half after the Spaniards. The first permanent settlement (at Jamestown) was in 1607. Massachusetts wasn’t settled by the Pilgrims until 1620. Charlestown was settled in 1670. During much of this period there was conflict between the English and the Spaniards. When the English, led by James Oglethorpe, settled Georgia (Savannah in 1733 and Augusta in 1736) conflicts between the English and Spaniards accelerated, and continued for decades.

So in part the answer to your question about the knowledge of the American Colonist about the Spanish possessions depends on whether you were a colonist in New England (where the major conflicts were with the French) or Georgia. During much of early U.S. Colonial history California was still a wilderness. It was only founded in 1769 less than a decade before the Declaration of Independence. There were maps showing (often inaccurately) the territory of California. The more scholarly among the colonists would have had some idea of Spanish territorial claims and known settlements. However the vast majority of the colonists would have focused on the struggles for territory that affected them most directly.

I asked Dr. Robert H. Jackson, a noted borderlands scholar for his perspective on what the early American colonists might have known about California. Here is his commentary: "At the time of the American Revolution English colonists /Americans knew very little about California, other than the fact that it existed. American ships did not begin to visit the coast of California until a decade or so after the American Revolution, in the 1790s and early 19th century. Moreover, the Spanish government did not publish information about California. The first travel accounts such as Captain George Vancouver's A Voyage of Discovery did not appear in print until much later (1798). Maps in the 18th century did include California. But there was a time lag of sorts in the incorporation of information."  Dr. Jackson sent me the map shown below. It was published in England in 1763, the year in which the Spaniards lost St. Augustine to the English.

As the new country of the United States expanded, knowledge of the original Spanish territories in the southwest - what the Spaniards called their Northern frontier - increased. By 1821 this entire area (extending from Texas into California) was part of the new country of México. American settlers pushed into Texas in large numbers in the 1820s. American trappers explored much of the southwest and west coast in these years. One of my favorite Mountain Men, Jedediah Strong Smith, visited the California missions in 1826-27. Ships from New England were regularly trading with the missions by the 1820s, as Dr. Jackson has noted. While some Americans settled in California during the Spanish era, the biggest influx came in the 1840s when California was part of México, as overland routes opened up and General Mariano Vallejo encouraged American immigration.

Ultimately, it was the conflict known as the Mexican American War (1846-48) that led to the inclusion of California into the United States. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), México ceded 55% of its territory to the United States (the territory included present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah).

Santa Cruz was founded on August 28, 1791 under the overall leadership of Fr. Fermín Lasuén, the second Father President of the mission chain. The founding missionaries (the men who were responsible for building the mission day-in and day-out in its initial years) were Fr. Isidro Salazar and Fr. Baldomero López. Fr.

Salazar was born in the region of Cantabria, Spain. He served at Santa Cruz for about four years. Fr. López served at Santa Cruz until mid-summer of 1796, when he returned to México. Neither of these priests cared for "temporal administration" (the actual building and running of a large complex community) and they didn't get along too well.

Santa Cruz was not one of the most successful of the Spanish missions. Its highest recorded population was only 523, attained in 1796.

Santa Cruz was founded on August 28, 1791 under the overall leadership of Fr. Fermín Lasuén, the second Father President of the mission chain. The founding missionaries (the men who were responsible for building the mission day-in and day-out in its initial years) were Fr. Isidro Salazar and Fr. Baldomero López. Fr.

Salazar was born in the region of Cantabria, Spain. He served at Santa Cruz for about four years. Fr. López served at Santa Cruz until mid-summer of 1796, when he returned to México. Neither of these priests cared for "temporal administration" (the actual building and running of a large complex community) and they didn't get along too well.

Santa Cruz was not one of the most successful of the Spanish missions. Its highest recorded population was only 523, attained in 1796.

The primary source for original mission records for the California Missions is at the Mission Archives Library in Santa Barbara, where many of the original documents were centralized. I would start there.

Here are some additional sources used by mission scholars:

• Archivo de San Francisco la Grande, Biblioteca National, México

• Archivo General de la Nación, México

• St. Mary's College, Moraga CA (Accounts for the Santa Cruz Mission)

• San Francisco Archdiocese Chancery Archive, Colma, CA (accounts for Mission Dolores)

• Bensen Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin

• Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley

There are, I am sure, important historic / original records in Spain but I have seen no citations to Vatican records. Most of the records for the Alta Calfornia Missions are in the U.S. libraries and museums I have cited or in México.

The primary source for original mission records for the California Missions is at the Mission Archives Library in Santa Barbara, where many of the original documents were centralized. I would start there.

Here are some additional sources used by mission scholars:

• Archivo de San Francisco la Grande, Biblioteca National, México

• Archivo General de la Nación, México

• St. Mary's College, Moraga CA (Accounts for the Santa Cruz Mission)

• San Francisco Archdiocese Chancery Archive, Colma, CA (accounts for Mission Dolores)

• Bensen Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin

• Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley

There are, I am sure, important historic / original records in Spain but I have seen no citations to Vatican records. Most of the records for the Alta Calfornia Missions are in the U.S. libraries and museums I have cited or in México.

Where can I find samples of models of the mission. I am doing a project on Mission San Juan Capistrano and need to make a model “in a box the size of a shoebox.” I'm not very creative so I could use a little help please. Thank You.

Most of the missions display professional models of their mission in the mission gift shop and examples of models built by others as displays in the mission museum. The San Gabriel Mission has large models of all the missions on display. They were built by seminarians in the 1930s.

You asked for some ideas and help in building a mission model in a shoebox, which is a pretty small space. Most of the models we have seen are built on a larger platform but if that is what the teacher has specified you can build a small model that would fit. You will not have enough space to build the entire mission complex so you will probably want to focus on the church.

The San Juan Capistrano Great Stone Church collapsed in 1812 in an earthquake but there is an artist recreation of what it looked like on our website at www.missionscalifornia.com in the Galleries section. 

To start your mission project you should cut out a piece of heavy cardboard or even better, have your mom or dad help you cut a piece of plywood that will fit inside the shoebox, so you have a firm foundation on which to work. You will find it easier to build the model on a separate base that is open to work on, then you can place the finished product inside the box after it is done.

There is a book Projects and Layouts by Kari Carnell and Libby Nelson that describes how to build a mission, describes materials you can use etc. You can also find some instructions on the Internet. You will find that models can be made of sugar cubes, styrofoam, paper mache, or almost anything. You start by drawing the lines for the church walls, fountains, walkways, etc. on the base. You probably want to leave room for a path or steps leading to the church. When you get to the roof you can cut out and bend cardboard in the shape of the roof, and then add ‘roof tile’ by gluing elbow macaroni or rigatoni pasta to the top and painting it brown or reddish brown.

I have a daughter in fourth grade and I am looking for a place to purchase a kit for her to build of her chosen mission (San Antonio de Padua.) Got an idea of where I can order one?

There is quite a large industry devoted to providing instructions, materials, and various size and quality "kits" to build a mission. There are at least three approaches to consider:

1. Buy some form of a kit or cut-out template. Bellerophon Books sells a large (about 2’ long x 10” wide) item called California Missions Cut Out Book (in two volumes) (San Antonio is in Book II.) These are pretty simple drawings. The paper on which the mission outlines are printed is regular paper so most model builders use this drawing as a template to cut-out a cardboard version of the components. You can then paste the template on to the cardboard, or draw the lines yourself but whatever approach you take I would think you would want to color the end product. Our website has a Visual Journey of this mission that includes several photos of the church…which will give you a good sense of what it looks like. There is an online source of paper models and templates from Paper Models Inc. (www.PaperModelsInc.com .) These look pretty neat. They have models you can download for all 21 missions.

2. Another approach is build a model using detailed instructions and guides. It could be made out of cardboard, building blocks, styrofoam, clay, salt dough, or even sugar cubes (a material our family has used for models with good results.) Roof tiles can be made by gluing elbow macaroni or rigatoni to cardboard and then painting them a brownish red. There is a book Projects and Layouts by Kari Carnell and Libby Nelson that goes into considerable detail on the how, on materials you can use, on sources etc. It is about $22.00. There is also a lot of “how to” material on the Internet.

3. The ultimate approach to model building is to do something original, using more detailed and accurate architectural drawings. This lets you do something more refined and detailed than a typical model kit, which simplifies the elements a lot. This approach has led to some pretty realistic and captivating models – some of which are so good they are on display in mission museums. (One strongly suspects the parents that were involved were artisans, architects or just creative people who made this into a major project to complete with their son or daughter.)  Most of these “ultimate” models utilize original drawings. On which turns a tale.

In 1933, during the Great Depression, someone had the idea of providing work for unemployed architects and photographers by having them document historic buildings. They employed 1000 architects that year in the project, which has given us a priceless legacy of really detailed drawings of many historic structures including some but not all of the old Spanish Missions (fortunately San Antonio was one of the missions still standing at the time and it is fully documented.) These drawings and a ton of black and white pictures are available online (free) at the American Historic Buildings site of the Library of Congress. Here is the link: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/ Just type in San Antonio de Padua.

Of course, this being America some entrepreneurs have packaged a sample of these drawings and sell them in a book entitled California Mission Measured Drawings. I am enclosing a copy of one of the seventeen drawings of San Antonio and it architectural features that are available online.

Do the following missions have nicknames? San Antonio de Padua, San Buenaventura, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, Santa Clara de Asís, and Santa Cruz. If so, what are they? Please tell me if they don't have one.

Santa Cruz does not have a generally recognized nickname. It has been referred to as the "hard luck" mission because the original mission was flooded and had to be relocated and the new mission was sacked by the occupants of the nearby town during the Pirate Raid on California.

San Antonio de Padua is referred to as Mission San Antonio.

San Buenaventura is called the Mission by the Sea.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is known as Mission Carmel.

Santa Clara de Asís is often abbreviated to Mission Santa Clara.

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was the fifth mission. It didn't have a widely used descriptor like San Juan Capistrano (Jewel of the Missions) or Santa Bárbara (Queen of the Missions). Its name was typically shortened to San Luis Obispo, which of course became the name of the town. There were lots of grisly bears in this area in 1772 (when the mission was founded) and they named the area The Valley of the Bears.

Do the following missions have nicknames? San Antonio de Padua, San Buenaventura, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, Santa Clara de Asís, and Santa Cruz. If so, what are they? Please tell me if they don't have one.

Santa Cruz does not have a generally recognized nickname. It has been referred to as the "hard luck" mission because the original mission was flooded and had to be relocated and the new mission was sacked by the occupants of the nearby town during the Pirate Raid on California.

San Antonio de Padua is referred to as Mission San Antonio.

San Buenaventura is called the Mission by the Sea.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is known as Mission Carmel.

Santa Clara de Asís is often abbreviated to Mission Santa Clara.

Can you tell me when the mission in San Francisco changed it's name from Mission Delores? Any other information about this mission would be greatly appreciated.

The official name of the mission is San Francisco de Asís. This was the name given the mission by Frs. Pedro Cambón and Francisco Palou, the founding missionaries. A small stream named Dolores ran by the mission. Later city streets and buildings were constructed around the mission and the stream was covered but the same name used for a street that replaced the stream. (The mission is located at 17th and Dolores streets.) People began to refer to the mission as Mission Dolores relatively early. They also referred to the area where the mission was located as the Mission District. So the answer to your question is that the official name was never changed. There is a lot of information on this mission in the visual journey we show on our website.

Neither mission has a generally accepted special name in the way that San Diego is called “Mother of the Missions." Our website lists the missions with these special names.

Santa Cruz is sometimes referred to as the “hard luck” mission because of its troubled history (early flooding that forced a reloation, the building of a pueblo (town) too close to the mission, the suspicious death of one of the padres, looting of the mission at the time of the pirate raid, or  the fact that it had the lowest population of all the missions etc.) To make matters worst the site was used to build a modern catholic church.

All that remains today is a reduced size replica next door to this church, and (in an adjacent state park) one of the original Indian adobes, used for housing. There was a priest who served at Santa Clara who was known for his piety and an uncanny ability to foretell events. Father Magin de Catalá was known as The Prophet. I hope these facts are of some help and stimulate your interest in the missions.

San Diego was the name given the bay, the presidio (fort), the mission built on Presidio Hill overlooking the bay, and the town that developed along the bay. The reference you make is to San Diego, not the San Diego mission.

Plymouth Rock is a granite boulder with the date 1620 carved on it. The rock lies near the ocean in Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the early English settlers of Massachusetts landed for the first time, in December 1620, tradition has it that they stepped ashore on this rock (or more likely, historians say, near this rock.) When the Spaniards first landed in California in 1769 they arrived in San Diego. So in a very broad analogy (analogy means a similarity in some particulars between things otherwise different) both Plymouth Rock and San Diego were places where the first European settlers landed.

San José was founded by Father-President Fermín Lasuén, who succeeded Junípero Serra as head of the mission chain. He wanted to fill in the gaps between the established missions and planned to establish five new missions. An exploratory party of six or seven men accompanied by a padre from San Antonio de Padua was assigned to find a good site for one of these missions in the area below San Francisco. The party traveled northeast from the existing mission of Santa Clara. They picked out the site pretty quickly, but actual approval and funding took a couple more years. Fr. Lasuén was a hands-on leader and he personally led the group that founded the mission, setting out from Santa Clara on June 9, 1797. Two days later they erected a cross on the site. Fr. Lasuén decided to name this mission in honor of the foster-father of Christ, St. Joseph.

They were named by the founding missionaries in honor of a saint. As Donald Toomey, in his marvelous book The Spell of California’s Spanish Colonial Missions has pointed out, the act of naming “allowed the community settling there to Hispanicize and Christianize” the wilderness. The name chosen inserted the mission into the liturgical calendar. Each mission held a fiesta on the Saints day. Each name has a story.

The first mission was named San Diego de Alcalá because this was the name given to the bay of San Diego by Captain Sebastián Vizcaíno when he explored the coast in 1602. The name San Diego was applied to both the presidio and the mission when they were founded in 1769.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was chosen as the patron for the second mission as a gesture to honor King Carlos III of Spain. Saint Charles Borromeo was a 16th century Italian Cardinal. He was canonized in 1610.

Fr. Junípero Serra chose the name for the third mission, San Antonio de Padua, a Franciscan who was canonized in 1231, the year following his death.

I was wondering if San Juan Bautista has a nickname. Some of our students are going to start working on Missions and that question came up in class.

Some of the missions had long, complicated names that were often shortened. For example, San Fernando Rey de Espana is usually referred to as ‘San Fernando Rey’ or ’San Fernando.’ A couple missions have alternate names. San Francisco de Asís, is commonly called Mission Dolores (originally named after a stream that passed by.) San Francisco Solano is also referred to as Mission Sonoma (for the town in which it is located.) I am not aware of any common abbreviation or shorthand reference for San Juan Bautista. It may be shortened to San Juan by some. There are, of course two missions with San Juan in their name, the other being San Juan Capistrano. San Juan Bautista was called the Mission of Music by early historians.

I am trying to assist my nephew in his school project about the Solana Mission. One of the required elements is a photograph of the founder, José Altamira, of his assigned mission. We've gone through a bunch of search engines on the web and various university library catalogs, but have been unsuccessful. Do you know of a book or archive that ever had or published an image of this father? We were thinking that one of the reasons it is so difficult to locate is that he was a rogue founder that was eventually exiled from that mission. Any suggestions will be much appreciated!

I have never seen reference to a contemporary image of José Altamira. If there was one it would have been a drawing or painting. My suggestion is that your nephew draw a picture of him.

José Altamira arrived at Monterey in 1820, age 33. He did not make a favorable impression. Fr. Payeras wrote of Altamira: "His actions will reveal his merits; for this he lacks neither talent nor still less application." He was impulsive, political, hot tempered. In the definitive biographical dictionary Franciscan Missionaries in Hispanic California there is this telling paragraph "Altamira was a sort of "Young Turk" missionary, a type that would not be trusted..." The galleries on our website (particularly 19th century drawings and the Franciscans) will give him some images of padres to start from. The key things is how does your nephew envision him. I would love to see a copy of his picture.

I have complete set of the 1903 San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Supplement insert drawings of the California Missions dated July 5, 1903 through November 29, 1903. Can you provide me with any information about this collection? I would like to make prints of the drawings.

I am not familiar with this specific collection but at the beginning of the 20th century "saving" the missions was a hot topic. Your email does not make it clear whether the supplement provides details on the artist(s) which would be a key consideration. Also I know from personal experience that newspaper material does not scan well, even with the best of equipment. It produces an image that is useful for web viewing but impossible to turn into a real "print" of any quality or that would have value, and allow you to make something of this collection. I suspect that the Chronicle has the originals in its archives. You should contact them for additional information and determine the availability (and cost) of authentic prints. These will be off copyright if you had the originals but may be subject to new restrictions in any reprint they might provide. You might also check to see that you can find in one of the historic newspaper archives and see what they would charge for the copies you already have. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of paintings, photographs, lithographs, and other renditions of the missions - some incredibly good (the paintings of Deakin, for example), others of more limited value and appeal. This is also true of late 19th and early 20th century photographs. Most of these are already in the public domain.

I am an elementary school teacher in Indiana, and am interested in a set of photo slides of the California Missions for my classes. I love your website. It is beautiful and full of excellent information. Thank you for your help.

Thank you for the encouraging comments on our website. The easiest way to obtain images is to acquire our CD Images of the California Missions. Any image you want to build into a presentation can be downloaded on to your computer (right click, save as picture on a PC.)  Once you have the images you want they can be arranged into a presentation using almost any presentation program (Power Point works fine.) You can add text of course. This CD also contains summary information on each mission / each image.

You have probably already discovered that our website has a lot of information. In order to project the images you will need a digital projector. If the school doesn’t have one perhaps one of the parents do or they can be rented. If the class isn’t too large viewing a presentation on a computer isn’t totally impractical.

To be candid slides are rapidly disappearing as a medium in the digital age. We have a collection of several thousand mission images, some of which are in the form of slides, but we mostly shoot with a professional digital camera (the Nikon D2X) these days.

The Stations of the Cross, also called The Way of the Cross and Via Dolorosa, depict fourteen key events on the day of Christ’s crucifixion. The custom originated in medieval Europe. By the 17th century they were quite common in Catholic churches.

Here is a photograph we took of the second Station, where the cross is laid upon Jesus. We received permission from the mission to take this photograph.

The interior of the San Gabriel church is rather dark and the lighting is quite uneven. We used special equipment to take this photograph. If you visit San Gabriel the paintings will look darker under the available light.

I was told that the San Rafael mission was destroyed and a new church built where the mission church used to be located. Do you have a picture of the original mission?

The only renditions we have of the original mission are drawings:

Can you help me locate pictures of the back or the surroundings of a mission. I am helping my daughter with her mission but only seem to see the front of the mission.

The missions used to be complete communities, with dozens of buildings. They were usually set up as a quadrangle. One of the few pictures ever made of a historic quadrangle was take in 1875, showing San Buenaventura (in the town of Ventura).

The two mission that still have the most space around them (and have the most complete original complexes) are San Antonio de Padua (where the church and quadrangle were rebuilt) and La Purísima which is now a State Park. La Purísima has about 20 buildings and a corral with lots of animal.

If you have a specific mission in mind to visit, you can get a good sense of what it looks like in one of the online tours that is available. Our key facts section for each mission shows a variety of images, and the slide show for each mission provides several additional images.

An early sketch of Carmel was done by a French explorer who visited the mission in 1786, two years after Junípero Serra died.

As you can see, the church is pretty simple. The present church, with its Moorish tower, wasn’t completed until 1797.

Most of the missions had a series of churches. Carmel had six other churches before the present and last one was erected.

I am trying to find a picture of the structure of the San Juan [mission] so I can do a school project can you tell me where it is on line.

There were two missions that had San Juan in their name. San Juan Bautista and San Juan Capistrano. Look at the map on our website so you can see which one you will be visiting. We have several great images of both missions on our website under the Key Facts of each mission. You can also find lots of pictures using a web search engine like Google. Just type in the name of the mission and search IMAGES. There were over ten pages of images that appeared when I did this the other day for San Juan Bautista.

Can you help me find a picture of Father José Cavaller of Mission San Luis Obispo? I would love it if you could help me. Thank you very much! I love your website. It is very helpful!

There are very few images of the mission era Franciscan friars. Remember that they lived well before the advent of photograph. If an image survived it had to be painted or drawn as was done with Fr. Junípero Serra when he was in México City for a visit.

I can tell you a few things about José Cavaller. When the missionaries left Spain they were described in their passport records. Fr. Cavaller was described as of medium height, somewhat corpulent (i.e. he was a little on the fat side) and of a dark complexion.

He was placed in sole charge of the new mission of San Luis Obispo at the age of only thirty-two, so he must have impressed the Father President. The mission was very successful under his leadership. Only four years later, in 1776. it was self sufficient. If you really need an image you will have to draw what you think he looked like from the brief description I have given you. If you do, send me a copy.

Can you help me find a picture of Father José Cavaller of Mission San Luis Obispo? I would love it if you could help me. Thank you very much! I love your website. It is very helpful!

There are very few images of the mission era Franciscan friars. Remember that they lived well before the advent of photograph. If an image survived it had to be painted or drawn as was done with Fr. Junípero Serra when he was in México City for a visit.

I can tell you a few things about José Cavaller. When the missionaries left Spain they were described in their passport records. Fr. Cavaller was described as of medium height, somewhat corpulent (i.e. he was a little on the fat side) and of a dark complexion.

He was placed in sole charge of the new mission of San Luis Obispo at the age of only thirty-two, so he must have impressed the Father President. The mission was very successful under his leadership. Only four years later, in 1776. it was self sufficient. If you really need an image you will have to draw what you think he looked like from the brief description I have given you. If you do, send me a copy.

I found a coin in the pocket of a pair of pants in a consignment store that said, Rey de España, 1986. It also says Juan Carlos I. It's in good condition and it says cien pesetas. Do you know anything about it?

I have never seen this coin but a lot of promotional merchandise, medals and some "coins" have been sold over the years at the missions. However this is unlikely to be related to the missions as it doesn't have the name of a mission but King of Spain (Rey de España). I suspect it is a real coin, of limited value given the year of issue.

I am attaching a link to an article on Juan Carlos. You should check with a coin dealer if you want to pursue this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Carlos_I_of_Spain

I am interested in purchasing a statue of Fr. Junípero Serra. Do you have anything to offer or can you recommend another source?

Unfortunately we do not carry any statues of the Blessed Serra. The Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo was selling a 2-foot high "gray wash" concrete statue of Fr. Serra last year. I don’t know whether they have any left, or whether you were searching for something smaller and / or in metal. You can call the school at: (650) 573-6638.

We have a Collector Card ($1.00) and an eBook: Palou’s Life of Father Junípero Serra ($9.95). The eBook has to be ordered via fax at 480-443-8333 or by mail (Pentacle Press, PO Box 9400, Scottsdale Arizona 85252.)

We are working on an illustrated Time Line of Junípero Serra’s life. This is available online at my publishing website www.pentacle-press.com. It contains about 30 photographs of various places important in Fr. Serra’s life; also images of him as reflected in various paintings and statues etc.

This story has a successful conclusion. A few weeks later we received the following email: I contacted Serra High School and they had one statue left. It should be in the mail to me this week. Thanks again for you suggestions.

Not all of what we refer to as ranchos were fully developed complexes. Some had buildings, others were fields and vineyards. In his extensive book Missions and the Frontiers of Spanish America, Dr. Robert Jackson lists some of the known ranchos in the extensive Building Chronologies he includes in the book. The ranchos he identifies are listed below with the mission with which they were associated following in bracket:

  1. Valle de San Luis (San Diego)
  2. Rancho San Benito (San Antonio de Padua)
  3. Rancho San Antonio de los Ajitos (San Antonio de Padua)
  4. Rancho San Miguelito (San Antonio de Padua)
  5. Rancho San Bartolomé (San Antonio de Padua)
  6. Ranchol San Bernardino (San Gabriel)
  7. Rancho de la Playa (San Luis Obispo)
  8. Santa Margarita (San Luis Obispo). Well documented
  9. Rancho Arroyo Grande (San Luis Obispo)
  10. Rancho San Miguelito (San Luis Obispo)
  11. San Pedro y San Pablo (San Francisco). Well documented.
  12. Rancho San Antonio (La Purísima)
  13. Rancho Refugio (Santa Cruz)
  14. Rancho San Simeon (San Miguel)
  15. Rancho Asunción (San Miguel)
  16. Rancho Aguage (San Miguel)
  17. Rancho San Franciso Xavier (San Fernando)
  18. San Antonio de Pala (San Luis Rey). This is sometimes called an asistencia but this was not the term used in contemporary documents. Pala is about 25 miles inland from San Luis Rey. The historic chapel has been restored and is well worth visiting.
  19. Los Flores (San Luis Rey). Well documented.

Fr. Englehardt's books on each mission contain additional information and list certain other ranchos.

The best source for that information would be the baptismal records. You can call the mission and see if they have a copy. Most of the original records for all the missions are maintained at:

Santa Bárbara Mission Archive Library

2201 Laguna Street Old Mission

Santa Barbara, CA 93105.

Telephone: (805) 682-4713.

Since you are only searching for one or two names you may find someone who is willing to give you that information over the phone.

Is there a cemetery plot map for the San Antonio de Padua mission? Where can I find information about my grandmother and several families I think may be related. One of the stories my grandmother told me was about a woman named Ramonia. On trips to the mission she even showed me where she was buried.

You are fortunate to have known your Grandmother and to remember so much about her background. I don’t know whether you have attempted a genealogical search but that would be the normal starting point. Here are a few Internet links:

• The California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland has tremendous resources. Their telephone is 510-663-1358. You should probably check out their Internet site first at http://www.calgensoc.org/

• One of the most extensive resources for tracing ancestors (of all faiths) is maintained by the Mormon church. Go to their ancestor hunt, which is free, at: http://www.ancestorhunt.com/mormon_church_records.htm

• There are also services that will let you try to find relatives by providing details on a special site and an email possible “cousins” can use to contact you. Check out:http://surnamesbytown.com/United_States_of_America/California/cakingci.html

There is a Plot map for the entire San Antonio de Padua Mission complex but I don’t think there is a plot for the cemetery (i.e. showing who is buried where.) You can call the mission to ask about this.

There are definitely extensive mission records showing births, deaths, marriages etc. Most of the mission era records are now centralized at the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive Library. However the dates you mention are well after the mission era and you may make more progress with a general search. It will be helpful for you to know the specific place in California where your grandmothers parents were born.

At the end of 19th century when you grandmother was a young lady, there was a surge of interest in the missions and several novels, plays, and movies were made, the most famous of which was Ramona. It was written by Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), an Indian rights activist and author. It became the basis of an outdoor play, the Ramona Pageant held each spring since 1923. These publications stimulated interest in finding the “real” location for the various events in Ramona’s life. I thought of this when you mentioned your grandmother's stories about “Ramonia."

I hope this information is of some help to you in your search. Good luck.

I am doing research on the official seals of the California missions. I’ve found seals for every mission but Santa Clara and San Miguel. Would you please tell me where I can get more information on the seals? I’m wondering why the missions had seals, where they hung,  and who made them and when.

An interesting question. I do not believe that the missions had official seals. There is no reference to them in the definitive books on the missions written by Fr. Zephrin Egelhardt in 1920s and 1930s. He does discuss a seal for the first bishop of California.

Most cities and major towns have seals. The Seal is an official device of the municipal government, utilized as a mark of authorization and decree. Most seem to have been adopted in 19th century and they typically evolve. Official seals like this often incorporate an image of one of the early / seminal town structures, which often would be a mission. See the attached seal for the city of Santa Clara which calls itself "The Mission City" and features an image of the mission.

I am curious as to what you are referring to as the "official seal." If you have a digital copy of one or two (like San Diego or San Francisco) email them to me and we will see if we can research this further.

Did San Luis Obispo produce any goods? Were they well-known for producing anything? I'm working on a Mission report and I can't find any literature on this.

The primary products produced by the missions were cowhides and tallow. The cowhides were also known as Yankee dollars, because they were traded for manufactured goods brought by ships which were mostly from Boston.  As of 1832, the last year for which records were kept, San Luis Obispo had a herd of 2.500 cattle and 5,432 sheep.

San Luis Obispo was also famous for being the first mission to make roofing tiles, which the other missions soon copied. In addition, San Luis Obispo also had large agricultural fields under cultivation.

Did San Luis Obispo produce any goods? Were they well-known for producing anything? I'm working on a Mission report and I can't find any literature on this.

The primary products produced by the missions were cowhides and tallow. The cowhides were also known as Yankee dollars, because they were traded for manufactured goods brought by ships which were mostly from Boston.  As of 1832, the last year for which records were kept, San Luis Obispo had a herd of 2.500 cattle and 5,432 sheep.

San Luis Obispo was also famous for being the first mission to make roofing tiles, which the other missions soon copied. In addition, San Luis Obispo also had large agricultural fields under cultivation.

The blacksmiths were very important to the functioning of the mission, and only strong, bright Indians who showed an aptitude for working with their hands were chosen.

The blacksmith shops were often located away from the main mission buildings because of the danger of fire. The blacksmiths used equipment similar to what was used elsewhere in the early 19th century: a forge, bellows, and an anvil on which to pound the metal after it was heated. The blacksmiths made all kinds of things: plows, tools, nails, cattle brands, and hinges. The San Fernando Rey blacksmiths were known to be particularly skilled and made such objects as scissors.

In the beginning the Spanish crown supported the missions. As the missions matured they began to become self-supporting. They grew enough food to feed the neophytes and often enough to supply the presidios and pueblos.

They had large herds of cattle and sheep. The cattle not only produced beef to eat; the hides became a medium of exchange. The sheep produced wool which was used to make clothing, blankets etc.

Starting in the late 1700s ships began to call at the Spanish ports. While the authorities discouraged trade, some took place. As Spain got diverted with wars in Europe and revolt against its rule in México (starting in 1810), trade increased.

Cured cowhides (called Yankee Dollars) were in great demand. They were taken back East and used to manufacture shoes. Tallow was also a source of income and manufactured goods.

When Alta California became a province of México (1821), trade was much freer and more robust. Still, Mission Carmel had a relatively small herd of livestock. In1832 (the last year for which records were kept) there were only 2,100 cattle owned by the mission (this put them in the bottom 25% of the 21 missions) so Carmel was not the economic power house that San Gabriel or San Luis Rey was. Mission Carmel also had far fewer neophytes.

The mission population peaked in 1795 at 876. Just before secularization of the missions, in 1832, the population was only 185. We think of Carmel as a “major” mission and it was in the sense that it was the headquarters of the chain from 1770-1803. In fact, the mission was frequently visited by important personages, because it was the headquarters and close to Monterey. However it was a relatively small mission in population and economic output. The magnificent church we all admire was in fact subsidized by the crown, who sent an architect from México to design and build it.

Today the missions primarily consist of a restored church (which sometimes serves as a parish church) and few additional buildings. The only mission which has most of the workshops where products were made is La Purísima, which consists of over 20 buildings. They give demonstrations there of candle making (made from the tallow of cows), weaving (using wool), woodworking, and a blacksmith shop (where they forged products like nails and tools.)

In the mission era, the primary products were wheat, corn, and other products grown in the mission fields such as fruit (primarily in the south. Also, products made from cattle and sheep. The most lucrative product was a dried cattle hide, called Yankee Dollars. Traders in ships from Massachusetts, New York and other eastern states purchased or traded goods for these items. The cattle hides were made into shoes.

The work didn't vary a lot from mission to mission, although Santa Inés had one of the largest networks of ranches and agricultural fields in the mission chain, where they grew wheat, barley, corn, beans etc. Even today the Santa Inez valley is rich farming country. The men worked in the fields, tended the cattle and sheep, worked in mission mills (where grain was processed.) Santa Inés had two mills.

Some neophytes with an aptitude for working with their hands became skilled craftsman: carpenters, blacksmith, cobblers etc. The women cooked, wove yarn and made clothing and bedding, washed etc. Their days were very busy.

I am trying to assist my nephew in his school project about the Solana Mission. One of the required elements is a photograph of the founder, José Altamira, of his assigned mission. We've gone through a bunch of search engines on the web and various university library catalogs, but have been unsuccessful. Do you know of a book or archive that ever had or published an image of this father? We were thinking that one of the reasons it is so difficult to locate is that he was a rogue founder that was eventually exiled from that mission. Any suggestions will be much appreciated!

I have never seen reference to a contemporary image of José Altamira. If there was one it would have been a drawing or painting. My suggestion is that your nephew draw a picture of him.

José Altamira arrived at Monterey in 1820, age 33. He did not make a favorable impression. Fr. Payeras wrote of Altamira: "His actions will reveal his merits; for this he lacks neither talent nor still less application." He was impulsive, political, hot tempered. In the definitive biographical dictionary Franciscan Missionaries in Hispanic California there is this telling paragraph "Altamira was a sort of "Young Turk" missionary, a type that would not be trusted..." The galleries on our website (particularly 19th century drawings and the Franciscans) will give him some images of padres to start from. The key things is how does your nephew envision him. I would love to see a copy of his picture.

Books that I have read include: El Camino Real. The Golden Road: The Story of California's Spanish Mission Trail by Felix Riesengerg, Jr.(1962).

Two other books are Helen White's El Camino Real de California (1956) and Edwin Corle's 1949 book The Royal Highway (El Camino Real).

Charles Outland published a book that might be helpful: Stagecoaching on Camino Real Los Angeles to San Francisco 1861 - 1901.

Another publication that might be useful (but which I have not read personally) is The Romance of El Camino Real, with Authentic Kaloprints Attesting to the Period of Construction (1769-1830) , the Period of Depletion- (1835-) and Partial Preservation of the Historic California Missions (California Historical Record, Memorial No. 761)

The most extensive documentation I have seen on the original road (but focusing on the route from México to San Diego) appeared in the Winter 1977 issue of the Journal of San Diego History (Volume 23, No. 1) available online at http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/77winter/baja.htm  You might check their sources.

My daughter's 5th grade class is reading the book Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. When I was visiting with her teacher, she thought the story was set around the San Francisco Bay Area. She also thought the woman who was the main character was buried in a Spanish Mission in the area. We are going to be taking a trip to San Francisco soon. We'd like to visit that mission. Can you help us locate which one it was?

Island of the Blue Dolphins is a great book. It is, of course, a book of fiction so there is no absolute answer to your question. O’Dell grew up along the California coast, primarily in San Pedro. The Channel island of San Nicholas is about 52 miles off the coast, west of San Pedro. Most literary scholars believe that San Nicholas was the inspiration for this book, because of where O’Dell lived and because of the island’s size, its abundant sea life, and it’s history (a band of Kodiaks did land on the Island in 1811).

There was also a real life story involving “The Lone Woman on San Nicholas Island” which you can read about in the California Stories section of our website. Unfortunately, San Pedro is a long ways from San Francisco and there isn’t a mission there. What I think the teacher was probably remembering is Mission Santa Bárbara, which also has Channel Islands off its shore.

Going back to The Lone Woman of San Nicholas, she was brought to Santa Bárbara after she was rescued. She was given the name Juana María and she was, in fact, buried in the cemetery of the Santa Bárbara Mission. While a little closer, Santa Bárbara is also not convenient for you to visit unless you are planning a drive all the way down the coast.

There are six mission within striking distance of San Francisco. You can get a sense of each of them by playing the Flash movies on our website (go to Mission Gateway, the Visual Journeys.) While they all have their attractions, I think Mission San Juan Bautista would be my first choice although it is a bit of a drive (about 70 miles as I recall.) This is a charming mission set on the only original Spanish Square left in California, and there are a couple dozen historic buildings in the adjacent State Historic Park. Kids love this mission.

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was founded as part of the effort by the Spanish to settle the territory known as Alta California. The purpose of the mission was to build a community of Christian men and women who would be loyal to the Spanish Crown. An important objective, particularly for the missionaries, was to covert the natives to the Catholic faith. Today San Gabriel is a parish church located in the town of San Gabriel, California. The specific location and other information is on our website.

The missions were built by the Spaniards starting in 1769 in order to "colonize" the territory of Alta California, which they had discovered over two centuries earlier. There had been various proposals over the years to do something with this territory, but it was hard reaching the coast of Alta California from New Spain (México) in those days, sailing against the wind and currents, and Spain had other priorities. What finally moved them to act was the fact that Russian fur trappers were moving farther and farther down the Coast (from their bases in Alaska) and were spotted near present day San Francisco in 1760s.

You might ask why they didn't send settlers. They did send a few, but not very many people wanted to go to this "wilderness." The Spaniards also had good results previously using missions to settle other parts of their frontier-in Arizona and Texas, for example, and in the Río de la Plata region of Latin America. I should also point out that the Franciscan padres were motivated primarily by the opportunity to convert the Native Americans to the Catholic Faith.

The mission system required that Indians brought into a mission be baptized into the faith and "civilized." This was considered another big plus supporting the use of missions as the central element in colonization.

Ultimately, the Spanish built several pueblos (towns), the largest of which became Los Angeles. Almost ten of the original missions had towns develop around the mission.

The missions were built by the Spaniards starting in 1769 in order to “colonize” the territory of Alta California, which they had discovered over two centuries earlier. There had been various proposals over the years to do something with this territory but it was hard reaching the coast of Alta California from New Spain (México) in those days, sailing against the wind and currents, and Spain had other priorities. What finally moved them to act was the fact that Russian fur trappers were moving farther and farther down the Coast (from their bases in Alaska) and were spotted near present day San Francisco in 1760s.

You might ask why, didn’t they send settlers. They did send a few but not very many people wanted to go to this “wilderness”. The Spaniards also had good results previously using missions to settle other parts of their frontier – in Arizona and Texas for example and in the Río de la Plata region of Latin America. I should also point out that the Franciscan padres were motivated primarily by the opportunity to convert the Native Americans to the Catholic Faith.

The mission system required that Indians brought into a mission be baptized into the faith and “civilized.” This was considered another big plus supporting the use missions as the central element in colonization. Ultimately, the Spanish built several pueblos (towns), the largest of which became Los Angeles.

There was a dirt road connecting the missions, presidios, and ultimately major towns, called El Camino Real, or the Kings Highway. The exact layout of the road varied over time as natural disasters (particularly changes in the direction of rivers, earthquakes etc.) forced a new routing, and also as missions were added to the chain.

There are 21 missions extending over a distance of about 650 miles, or roughly thirty miles apart. There is a wide range however as the main criteria was that each mission be about a day's journey (by horse / wagon) and the terrain varied a lot.

Books that I have read include: El Camino Real. The Golden Road: The Story of California's Spanish Mission Trail by Felix Riesengerg, Jr.(1962).

Two other books are Helen White's El Camino Real de California (1956) and Edwin Corle's 1949 book The Royal Highway (El Camino Real).

Charles Outland published a book that might be helpful: Stagecoaching on Camino Real Los Angeles to San Francisco 1861 - 1901.

Another publication that might be useful (but which I have not read personally) is The Romance of El Camino Real, with Authentic Kaloprints Attesting to the Period of Construction (1769-1830) , the Period of Depletion- (1835-) and Partial Preservation of the Historic California Missions (California Historical Record, Memorial No. 761)

The most extensive documentation I have seen on the original road (but focusing on the route from México to San Diego) appeared in the Winter 1977 issue of the Journal of San Diego History (Volume 23, No. 1) available online at http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/77winter/baja.htm  You might check their sources.

I am searching for a map or record of the specific route used between the San Gabriel and San Fernando missions. I have seen several references that cite the route as "along the Verdugo foothills",  but I would like to know if any more specific information exists. Thank you

I checked the definitive books that Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt wrote on the San Gabriel Mission (published in 1927) and the San Fernando Mission (1922) but they do not provide any details. The San Gabriel Mission book does have a map of the "Old California Missions" but it is very general.

There are several possible sources I can suggest depending on how much time you want to devote to this. There are early maps of California at the Library of Congress and the University of California at Berkeley. You might also find early maps of both towns that could help.

The Mission Archive Library at Santa Barbara is another possible source. (http://www.sbmal.org/ )

The California Mission Studies Association sells a large map showing the mission locations but there may not be enough detail on the exact route between San Gabriel and San Fernando (http://www.ca-missions.org/pubs.html#map.) There was a lot of research done on the evolving road between the missions (El Camino Real) at the beginning of the 20th century when hundreds of bell markers were placed between 1906-1915 (for more details on this project see http://www.cahighways.org/elcamino.html.)

Could you please tell me if there are any missions in the San Francisco Bay area which hold regular Sunday mass in September when I will be visiting?

You might plan to attend mass at San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) in San Francisco. This is the most authentic mission in the Bay area and the only original church.

The Mission Dolores chapel is quite small and thus they do not hold Mass on Sunday (it is held at the adjacent cathedral) but you could say a prayer in the mission itself while there....or attend the special Saturday night vigil mass (5:00 p.m.) at the chapel. Mass is also held at the old mission at 7:30 and 9:00 a.m. M-F.

Depending on where you are staying, you can certainly find Mass services at the mission replica in Santa Cruz (a modern Victorian era church located on the original site of the mission) or Santa Clara, where there is a modernized version of the original church. The San José Church (north of the city of San José) was tastefully and carefully restored.

If you are up for a drive, the mission at San Juan Bautista is really charming and authentic. They also have a Saturday 5 p.m. vigil mass and three services Sunday morning.

I would like to visit the San Fernando mission but I can not find out any info. Could you please email me some info?

The San Fernando Rey mission is located in the middle of the triangle formed by Interstate 5, Interstate 405, and the Simi Valley Freeway (California 118) at the North end of the San Fernando Valley, to the North of Los Angeles. Navigate to this area and find your way to Sepúlveda Blvd. heading North. Turn right at San Fernando Mission Blvd. just past where Sepúlveda crosses under the 118 Freeway. The mission is a short distance on the left at 15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd.

If you are not familiar with the CA freeway system, it might be a good idea to mapquest the journey from your hotel. The mission is open between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. There is a small entrance fee. I would estimate that you should allow about 2 hours for a thorough visit.

If you have access to the Internet there are over a dozen websites that provide detailed information on the mission, including our site.

We would like to visit some missions in the Bay area. Can you suggest some missions not too far and tell us which one are closed in that period?

My recommendations are:

1. San Francisco de Asís (also called Mission Dolores). It's located in the city. Authentic, old, charming with a small cemetery. Limited grounds. This can be reached by cab or public transportation.

2. San Francisco Solano (also called Mission Sonoma). This is about 40 miles / 1 hour + north of San Francisco. A beautiful town in the wine country. A well restored mission. Has a special colleciton of paintings of all the missions. Historic Site (the Bear Flag was raised near the mission, beginning the split of California from México). Many other attractions in and near the town.

3. In addition: Mission San Rafael (north of the city), Mission San José (in Fremont), Mission Santa Cruz in the town of that name, and Mission Santa Clara are all in the Bay area.

While each has its charm, if you want something really special drive further south and explore San Juan Bautista (a wonderfully appealing mission located on the grounds of the only original Spanish Square left in California.) It is about 90 miles / 1 1/2 hours from S.F.

Further south, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (also called Mission Carmel) is located in one of the nicest seaside towns in California, a very popular get-a-way destination. The mission is exquisite, argueably the most beautiful of the missions. It was the headquarters of Fr. Junípero Serra. Great shopping and sightseeing in Carmel. Carmel is about 2 hours / 115 miles from San Francisco. You can visit these two missions on the same trip but you will need to stay overnight in Carmel.

The closest mission to you is San Luis Rey, in Oceanside. You can mapquest this directly from the resort. Our website has a 4-5 minute slideshow on this mission, the address, and other relevant information.

Other options would include visiting the San Antonio de Pala (sub-mission) about 30 miles further east of San Luis Rey, driving to Mission San Diego or heading north to San Juan Capistrano. Each have their attractions.

The best map on the missions is California Missions, which contains original artwork created by Francois Davot. It sells for $5.95. While this (and most of the map products) have some directions I have never found anything that is really as good as doing an online search once you have worked out the direction (north or south), the sequence of missions to be visited (which will be affected by other stops along the way, hotel plans etc.), and the amount of time you want to take.

With the map in hand get the specific address of each mission (this is available on our website from the front page tab Mission Gateway / Mission Information), then obtain very specific directions for your itinerary through Mapquest or some other comparable service, which are all free.

I assume you were not being literal when you said walk. The missions extend more than 600 miles and were sited to be about a day apart (by horse / cart.) I have visited all twenty-one three times and it takes about six days to do it right, five days if you take some shortcuts and 'rush'.

There are some missions situated in areas where there is an awful lot of mission era things to see: Mission San Diego, Mission Santa Barbara, San Juan Bautista, and Mission Carmel / Monterey. The only fully reconstructed mission complex is La Purísima (now a state park).

There are a number of companies that offer packaged tours of The California Missions.

Pilgrim Tours offers a Mission Tour, for example. For information email them at mail@pilgrimtours.com or call 800.322.0788.

Peter's Way Tours offer religious tours and pilgrimages that include a California Missions Tour. Call 800-225-7662 or email passages@petersway.com

Globus Tours also offers a Mission Tour. Call 800-935-2620.

All of these tours seem to have the following characteristics:

• They last about 8 days

• They are only given 1-2 times a year.

• They extend from San Diego (the first mission) to San Francisco or in some cases the most northerly mission San Francisco Solano, in Sonoma

• They selectively combine visits to the missions with other major attractions

• They do not include all 21 missions but do (for the most part) cover the most interesting / significant missions.

• They do not include asistencia or other mission era sites.

Recently, I developed a self driven tour of all twenty-one missions that took eight days. This tour is posted on this section of the website.

I would like information, if available, on the best way to plan for visits to all the California Missions. Can you help me out?

To properly answer this question depends on the answer to some other questions:

1. Do you want to see all the missions in a "grand tour" or break the visit into segments?

2. To what extent, if any, do you want to see other mission-era sights? Asistencia (sub-missions), mission era buildings, museums etc.

3. Related to point #2, how much time can you allocate? (For example, it is possible to see the three most southern missions (San Diego, San Luis Rey, and San Juan Capistrano) in two days. However there are other mission era sights that could extend the time. In San Diego alone there is Old Town San Diego - which has several important mission era structures, the Cabrillo Monument, the Serra Museum on Presidio Hill, and the remnants of the water system near the mission...not to mention the San Antonio de Pala asistencia (sub-mission) about 30 miles east of San Luis Rey.

For example, if you were to plan an eight day + trip that only allowed time for visits to the missions and a few nearby mission era sights, this preliminary itinerary could be helpful:

Day One

Drive to Sonoma the night before and start with Mission San Francisco Solano. Be sure to see the site of the Bear Flag Revolt on the square and the Soldiers Barracks. If you have time drive to General Mariano Vallejo’s house on the outskirts of town (2-3 hours.) Drive to San Rafael and see the mission replica (1- hour.) End the day visiting San Francisco de Asís in downtown San Francisco. Be sure to visit the cemetery (1-2 hours.) Consider driving that evening to Fremont, for an early start the next day.

Day Two

Visit Mission San José (1-2 hours.) Drive to Santa Clara University and visit historic Mission Santa Clara on the grounds of the school. Be sure to look at the rose garden (the former cemetery) and the ruins of the old walls that are preserved (1-2 hours.) End the day with a visit to Mission Santa Cruz. Be sure to visit the nearby Mission Santa Cruz State Historic Park where there is an authentic mission era adobe (former Indian housing.) At the end of the day drive to the town of San Juan Bautista, which is quite charming, so you can get an early start the next day.

Day Three

Spend as much time as you can at the San Juan Bautista mission and the adjacent state park. This contains the only authentic Spanish era plaza and some 20 historic buildings (2-3 hours.) Drive to Carmel and visit Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. This is a beautiful mission with wonderful grounds, a great museum, and plenty to see (2-3 hours.) If you had another day I would spend it here and visit Old Monterey.

Day Four

Make your way to Route 101 going south. Stop and see Mission Soledad (1 hour.) Drive from Soledad to San Antonio de Padua. Allow enough time to get thru the check points on the military reservation that surrounds the mission. San Antonio de Padua will be one of the highlights of your trip. This wonderfully restored mission has a great church, an interesting museum, a full quadrangle, several important exterior delays, and ample grounds (well marked with signs of what was present in the mission era) (2-3 hours.) Consider staying at the hotel near the mission.

Day Five

Touring San Miguel will not take as much time as we would normally recommend because the church was badly damaged in an earthquake in December, 2003 and much of the mission is closed (1 hour.) Continue to San Luis Obispo. This is an interesting mission in an interesting town and we would normally recommend you stay here but your time is limited. Visit the church, walk the grounds and be sure to spend time in the museum (1-2 hours.) Next, La Purísima, in Solvang, will take 2-3 hours to see and you could easily spend more time as this mission was fully restored in 1930s and contains over twenty buildings. We recommend driving to Solvang to be positioned to cover a lot of ground the next day.

Day Six

Visit Santa Inés before it opens, to take photographs of the mission as the sun rises. This is a wonderful mission with well preserved grounds and a lot to see (1-2 hours.) Then, drive to Mission Santa Barbara to see the mission which has an excellent museum and lovely grounds (1-2 hours.) Ordinarily we would recommend more time and a visit to the partially restored Santa Barbara Presidio but you are not likely to have enough time. Drive down the coast and stop in Ventura to visit San Buenaventura (1 + hours.) The interior of the mission church has been nicely restored and there is a small museum and displays on the grounds. To save time the next day, drive to Los Angeles and stay near Mission Hills.

Day Seven

San Fernando Rey is a big complex that will take time to see properly but if you want to complete your trip in eight days you will have to hit the highlights: the Convento, or Long House, the museum, and the church interior (1-2 hours.) Mid morning head for the town and mission of San Gabriel. This is an impressive fortress like church with a well organized tour. Again, you may be pressed to do it justice (1-2 hours.) In the early afternoon go south into Orange County to the town and mission of San Juan Capistrano (2-3 hours.) This mission contains the original Serra Chapel, spell binding ruins, extensive displays, and lovely gardens. Spend as much time there as you can. We recommend staying in San Juan Capistrano and getting up at the crack of dawn to try to beat the morning commuter traffic to get to Oceanside.

Day Eight

Visit San Luis Rey (1-2 hours) and then decide whether you want to see the San Antonio de Pala Asistencia, some 30 miles east of San Luis Rey (1-2 hours) or you would rather spend more time in San Diego. Drive to Mission San Diego mid day and tour this inspiring mission (1-2 hours.) You could easily spend more time. As we discussed while you are in San Diego visit the Serra museum on Presidio Hill, the original site of the first mission and presidio in California.

Some additional tips:

1. Spend some time viewing each mission on the computer, via the Visual Journeys we have posted on our website. You may have to make some tough trade-offs. Be prepared to adjust the amount of time you spend at each mission and be prepared to be disappointed in a few.

2. Do plenty of reading beforehand. That will not only enhance the quality of the experience it will help you plan photographs and have a checklist of what you want to see.

3. Whenever possible, time your visits to avoid certain events including fund raisers, festivals (so crowded you can't see anything), peak school days. Go in good weather (if there ever will be such again in California.)

Is there an annual pass that allows you to get in to all the California missions? If so, how can I go about purchasing one? If not, what are the entry fees for the missions?

There is no annual pass. The missions are individual entities that set their own schedules and entry fees. Most are active catholic churches where there is no fee for entering the church for mass but where there is a fee for entering the mission grounds and completing a full tour. Entry is usually through a mission gift shop. The missions which are state parks (for example, La Purísima) also have an entrance fee.

I am doing a report on the San Miguel mission but I can't find out how it got water to the fountain in front of the mission and what its nickname was. Get back to fast!

Dear “Get Back to me Fast” The full name of the mission is San Miguel Arcángel. The only “nickname” or shortened version that is in general use is Mission San Miguel. The missions were all located near water (typically small streams.) They built dams and reservoirs to collect the water and a system for bringing water to the mission. The fountain in the front of San Miguel was added in the 20th century.

Were there any lakes and rivers by any of the California missions? I found one, the Sacramento river. Are there others?

All the missions were located near a source of fresh water. They needed water to drink, to cook, to do the laundry, to bathe, etc.

Some of the missions were located near major rivers. Santa Clara was located on the banks of the Guadalupe River, for example. In many cases the source of water was a stream or creek. The padres damned the stream, then built an elaborate water system, typically with reservoirs to hold the water, and an aqueduct to carry the water to the mission, which was usually a few miles away.

Mission San Diego built what was called the Padre’s dam, six miles above the mission and remnants of the original dam are still visible.

Mission Santa Barbara damned a creek two miles above the mission and built a stone aqueduct to carry the water, parts of which are still standing.

At some missions like La Purísima, springs were a major source of water.

Sometimes an expanding city covered an original water source. San Francisco de Asís was located near a stream named Dolores, which ultimately became a street and gave the mission its nickname, Mission Dolores.

Mission San Luis Obispo had a creek running close to the mission. As the city grew they filled in much of the land below the mission. Later a wonderful park that is the vibrant center of the town was built adjacent to the mission. The city created steps to the now sunken stream and this is a great vantage point to view the mission.