Mission Carmel

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    Carmel Mission (San Carlos de Borromeo)

    San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission
    ••• Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Pgiam / Getty Images

    The Carmel Mission was the second one built in California, founded June 30, 1770 by Father Junipero Serra. The full name of Mission San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo is for Saint Charles Borromeo, the Bishop of Milan who died in 1538.

    If you're here because you want to visit the Carmel Mission, you may want to read up on its history first. That's on the next page. You can also continue through this guide to take a look at some pictures or just get the location which is below.

    If you're looking for background material for a California Fourth Grade report, use this page and the mission history on the next page. If you're building a model for your project, continue to check out the layout and floor plan and take a look at the pictures

    Interesting Facts about the Carmel Mission

    • Father Junipero Serra is its founder​
    • Mission Carmel has unique architecture, with stone walls and an arched ceiling

    Carmel Mission Timeline

    • 1770 - Father Serra founds
      1771 - Moved to Carmel River
      1784 -...MORE Father Serra dies
      1794 - 974 people at mission
      1823 - Population down to 381
      1834 - Secularized
      1859 - Mission returned to church

    Where Is the Carmel Mission Located?

    Mission Carmel
    3080 Rio Road, Carmel
    Carmel Mission Website
    Telelephone: 831-624-1271

    Mission Carmel is located in Carmel, California. Turn west off California Highway 1 onto Rio Road, just north of the Carmel River Bridge. Mission Carmel is on the left, at the intersection of Rio Road and Lasuen Drive.

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    History of Mission Carmel: 1770 to the Present Day

    Mission San Carlos de Borromeo, Carmel California
    ••• Mission San Carlos de Borromeo, Carmel California. ©2013 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    When the Spanish decided to build a second California mission at Monterey, Father Junipero Serra left San Diego by ship. Governor Portola traveled by land instead, and they met in the Monterey Bay. It took them each more than a month to travel the 400 miles, and Father Serra arrived about a week after Portola. Two days after arrived, on June 3, 1770, Father Serra founded the Carmel Mission, which was originally located at the Monterey Presidio.

    Early Years of Carmel Mission

    Portola left soon after the founding, placing Lieutenant Fages in charge. Fages began to interfere with Carmel Mission, and within a year, Father Serra decided to move a few miles south to a spot on the Carmel River that had better soil and water, and was further away from the soldiers.

    In the summer of 1771, the first buildings were started, using 40 Indians from the south, 3 soldiers and 5 sailors for labor. The first winter was very hard. They arrived too late to plant crops, and no ships could get there because of...MORE ocean storms. Finally, some soldiers went south toward present-day San Luis Obispo and killed some bears. With some wild seeds they harvested along the way, they carried enough food back to keep the people from starving.

    Father Serra went along with the bear hunters, then traveled south to San Diego and Mexico. In San Diego, he persuaded a sea captain to carry supplies back, but he did not return to right away. He went to Mexico, and was gone for a year and a half. While he was away, Father Palou took over.

    Carmel Mission 1780-1800

    By 1783, records show 165 converts, and there were 700 people living at Carmel Mission and on its ranch. They had built an irrigation canal from to river to a pool near where they kept fish. The Indians were trained to do farm and ranch work, blacksmithing and carpentry, and to make adobe bricks and roof tiles and tools.

    Supplies ran low again in early 1774, and many people almost died, but the fall harvest was good. They harvested 207 bushels of wheat, 250 bushels of corn and 45 bushels of beans. By 1774, the harvest was four times larger. About the same time, Don Juan Bautista de Anza established an inland route and started bringing supplies by land, so the settlers did not have to depend on ships.

    Father Serra returned to Carmel in 1774. He moved into a small hut next to Carmel Mission, and administered its affairs from there until he died on August 28, 1784, at age 70. He was buried next to Father Crespi, who died in 1782. Fathers Palou and Lasuen succeeded Serra as Presidente of the Missions, and both made Carmel their headquarters.

    By 1794, the Indian neophyte population reached 927. A new stone church was started in 1793, and finished in 1797.

    Carmel Mission 1800-1830s

    Father Lasuen died in 1803, and was buried in the church next to Fathers Crespi and Serra.

    During its 66 year history, Carmel Mission made 4,000 converts, but by 1823, the population had begun to decline, and only 381 were left. In 1833, Father Jose Real took charge.


    The next year, 1834, Mexico secularized the missions because it could not afford to support them after Mexico gained independence from Spain. The Mexican government sold the land around the church, right up its walls. Father Real moved to Monterey, but only held services at Carmel Mission occasionally.

    The land were returned to church in 1859, after the United States government took control of California. By then, the roof had collapsed, and it stayed in ruins for thirty years, until Father Angel Casanova, pastor of the church in Monterey, raised money for new roof in 1884. The new roof kept the church from further deterioration.

    Carmel Mission in the 20th Century

    The church restoration was started in 1930s by Harry Downie. Downie came originally to restore some of the statues, but became interested in restoring the whole building. With support from Father Michael O'Connell, the pastor after 1933, he restored the church and surrounding buildings.

    Carmel Mission became a parish church in 1933, and was designated a minor basilica by Pope John XXIII in 1961, and it is still an active parish church with regular services and a school. In 1985, the Catholic Church declared Father Serra venerable, and he was beatified in 1988 to recognize his heroism.

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    Mission Carmel Layout, Floor Plan, Buildings and Grounds

    Layout of the Carmel Mission
    ••• Layout of the Carmel Mission. ©Betsy Malloy 2002

    Building at current mission site began in 1771, after Father Serra moved the mission away from the Presidio in Monterey. This mission was to be Father Serra's headquarters, so he took charge of the building himself.

    Unlike other mission sites, there were a lot of trees around Carmel Mission, so building was easy. The first buildings (except the church) were made of logs stuck in the ground and standing vertically, with more logs across top covered with sticks and grass to make a roof. The first church was a brush hut. All the buildings were surrounded by a pole fence.

    The next church at Carmel Mission was built by Father Palou while Serra in Mexico. It was made of logs and tule reeds, and was finished by 1776, along with fathers' quarters made of adobe and a separate kitchen A new adobe

    After Father Serra died in 1784, Father Lasuen decided to build a new stone church in 1793. Because Fathers Serra and Crespi were buried in the old church, they didn't want to move them, so...MORE they built the new church in the same spot. A master brick-layer from Mexico named Manuel Ruiz supervised construction. The church was finished in 1797, and it is unusual among missions because of its design. The walls curve inward, and the ceiling follows the curve of the walls to form an arch (called a catenary arch). The bell tower has Moorish influence. Carmel mission is also one of only three California missions built of stone, its native sandstone quarried from the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains.

    A burial chapel was added to the church in 1821.

    After secularization, the mission roof collapsed 1851, and the building stood roofless for thirty years. In 1884, Father Angelo Casanova, the pastor at Monterey, raised money to repair and re-roof for one-hundredth anniversary of Father Serra's death. They built a wood-and-shingle roof on the church, with a high peak that made the building look odd. It stayed that way until 1936, when a roof like the original was rebuilt.

    Harry Downie started working at the mission repairing broken statues, and he got so interested in the old building that he started research and began restoring the whole mission in 1931. In 1939, he found the remains of the original cross buried in the patio. He created a replica, and placed it where he found the remains. He was supported by father Michael O'Connell, who became pastor of Carmel Mission after 1933, and it took him fifty years to complete the job.

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    Pictures of Mission Carmel

    Cattle Brand of Mission San Carlos de Borromeo (Carmel)
    ••• Cattle Brand of Mission San Carlos de Borromeo (Carmel). ©2014 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    The Mission Carmel picture above shows its cattle brand. It was drawn from samples on display at Mission San Francisco Solano and Mission San Antonio.

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    Mission Carmel Exterior Picture

    Exterior of Carmel Mission
    ••• Exterior of Carmel Mission. Hillarie/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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    Mission Carmel Interior Picture

    Interior of Mission Carmel
    ••• Interior of Mission Carmel. Ernest McGray, Jr./Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
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    Mission Carmel Altar Picture

    Altar at Mission Carmel
    ••• Altar at Mission Carmel. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
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    Mission Carmel Bell Tower Picture

    Bell Tower at Carmel Mission
    ••• Bell Tower at Carmel Mission. Neeta Lind/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
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    Mission Carmel Ave Maria Bell Picture

    Ave Maria Bell at Carmel Mission
    ••• Ave Maria Bell at Carmel Mission. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
    This bell originally hung in the tower. Named Ave Maria, it was cast in Mexico City in 1807 and installed at the mission in 1820. After the mission was secularized, local Indians took the bell down and hid it in the cathedral at Watsonville. For many years, people forgot about it, but it was re-discovered and brought back to the mission in 1925. This bell is cracked and doesn't ring properly any more, but a copy was made and hung in the tower in 2010.
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    Mission Carmel Model Photo

    Model of Carmel Mission
    ••• Model of Carmel Mission. ©2000 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
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    Pipe Organ

    Organ at Carmel Mission
    ••• Organ at Carmel Mission. Justin Kern/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    This pipe organ keyboard is located in a side room next to the main church.
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    Ceiling Decoration

    Ceiling Decoration at Mission Carmel
    ••• Ceiling Decoration at Mission Carmel. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
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    Cemetery at Mission Carmel
    ••• Cemetery at Mission Carmel. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
    It was common for graves of the Christian Indians to have just a simple wooden cross above it, like these.
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    Exterior Buttresses and Windows

    Exterior Buttresses and Windows, Mission Carmel
    ••• Exterior Buttresses and Windows, Mission Carmel. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
    Notice how thick the adobe walls are. They were strengthened with sections that were even thicker, like these - which are called buttresses.
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    California's First Library

    California's First Library, at Mission Carmel
    ••• California's First Library, at Mission Carmel. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    According to a sign posted outside the door, California's first library was created at Mission Carmel, using books brought north from Mexico City's San Fernando Apostolic College. In 1778, the library had about 30 books, but by 1784 it grew to more than 300. Today, it holds about 600 volumes.

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    Kitchen at Mission Carmel
    ••• Kitchen at Mission Carmel. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
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    Priest's Bedroom

    Priest's Bedroom, Around 1810
    ••• Priest's Bedroom, Around 1810. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
    This room is set up to look like it might have around 1810. By that time, furniture from Europe was reaching the U.S. and local cabinetmakers also were making some items, like the bed. The chest of drawers came from Boston, on a boat that had to go around South America to get here.
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    Reception Room

    Reception Room, Carmel Mission
    ••• Reception Room, Carmel Mission. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
    This room, which was called the Grand Sala, was a formal reception room where important visitors were entertained. This is not its original location, but it's furnished with many original pieces. The flooring is original.
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    Father Serra's Room

    Father Serra's Room, Mission Carmel
    ••• Father Serra's Room, Mission Carmel. ©2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Father Junipero Serra, often called the Father of the California Missions lived in this small room and died here in 1784. According to a sign posted by the door, it has been reconstructed from original materials gathered from around the old mission. The bed is recreated from a description written by Francisco Palou: "His bed consisted of some roughhewn board, covered by a blanket serving more as a covering than an aid for est for he never used even a sheepskin cover, as was customary."