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California Missions

King Charles the third of Spain gave permission to the Franciscan order to build missions in California and to educate and bring Christianity to the local natives. The padres taught them the best to grow their crops and raise the livestock. Most of the missions in Southern California were built more then 200 years ago. Some have with stood the test of time and some have been rebuilt. Earthquakes have done the most damage. Southern California Missions – Mission San Diego de Alcala, Mission San Luis Rey de Francial, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission Fernando Rey de Espana, Mission, San Buenaventura, Mission Santa BarbaraA few of the early missions were made of adobe and wood. Due to the lack of building materials of the time the walls in the main room, (which usually was the church) the walls were narrow. The road “El Camino Real” was built between the missions and are noted by road signs along the highway mainly highway 101. It was said that you could walk from one mission to the next in one day.

First Mission Founded: July 16, 1769 by Father Junipero Serra
Named for: Saint Didacus of Alcalá
Location: 6 miles from the city of San Diego on Presidio Hill overlooking Mission Valley

Mission San Diego is the oldest mission in California, and the first link in the “chain” of missions that stretches 650 miles along the El Camino Real or King’s Highway. On Presidio Hill there stands a large cross on which the following words are written: ” Here Father Serra first raised the cross. Here began the first mission, here the first town, San Diego, July 16, 1769.”

Being the first mission in Alto (upper) California, it understandably got off to a very slow start. In the early years the Indians were not good friends on the padres. They came at first only to receive the gifts brought by the missionaries.. There was even an attack on the mission, but the natives soon found out that their bows and arrows were no match for the Spanish soldiers firearms.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francial

This is the 18th mission to be built in California. It was the largest of all the missions. Somewhat off the beaten path, present day activities are held on the grounds such as retreats and holiday festivities. A large picnic area enhances the church. The gift shop is open and the museum is touted to have the largest collection of old Spanish Christian religious garments. 4050 Mission Ave, 5 miles east of Oceanside just north of Carlsbad. (760) 757-3651

Mission San Juan Capistrano
The 7th mission to be built in Southern California in 1776, San Juan Capistrano has the distinction of having one building (Serra Chapel) called the oldest standing in California. This one is our favorite mission as the stories told about the mission are clearly seen as you walk around the grounds. It is told that during the huge earthquake of 1812, a mass was in progress as the ground started to shake. The priest giving the mass called for the congregation to take shelter under the vestibule, as it was a sound structure. Some did while the others perished when the church collapsed. The archway held up. The swallows fly to the mission from Argentina on St Joseph’s day, March 19. There is a week of festivities to honor the birds’ arrival. Turn north off the 5 freeway on Ortega Highway just a half a mile. The mission is on your left. (949) 248-2049 PS. There are some great Mexican take out places in the area. This is one is our favorite missions.

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
This mission did very well raising crops like wheat, corn and beans along with cattle. Located close to Mexico it had many visitors as it was built in an area where many trails crossed. This meant plenty of things to do for the padres, such as feeding and helping all who stopped there. Many military personal would ask for food and shelter but didn’t respect the mission and became unwelcome guests. As well as most missions many Native Americans lived in and around the property. This caused strife as the military Mission Fernando Rey de Espanamen did not treat them with respect. The mission is located on Junipero Street and West Union Drive in the city of San Gabriel.

Mission Fernando Rey de España
The 17th mission was built in 1797 and boasts Native American artifacts and patterns are representative of the 18th century traditions. There is a small museum with a gift shop. 15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd Mission Hills. (818) 361-0186

Mission San Buenaventra
Built in 1782 mission San Buenaventra was the 9th to be built. It was built by Father Junipero Serra for the large number of Chumash Indians that lived in the area. The land around the mission was very fertile due to the water from the Ventura River. This is one we especially enjoy. They have a great small museum and the gift shop is loaded with many things that represent the Indians that inhabited the area in the early 1800’s plus the area around the mission contains many specialty stores. 225 East Main Street, Ventura, (805) 648-4496

Mission Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara mission was number 10 in the progression of the string of missions built from San Francisco to San Diego. It’s construction started in 1786. It was the tenth of twenty-one to be built. The only mission with two towers it was completed in 1820. This was the forth church to be built on the same site losing the first three to earthquakes. Santa Barbara mission was built by padre Antonio Ripoll to serve mainly as a religious haven for the Chumash Indians. The view from this mission is spectacular. Well worth a visit. The gardens are a great place to sit and reflect. 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara. (805) 682-4713

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