Mission San Antonio de Padua

Mission San Antonio de Padua
David Madison / Getty Images

Mission San Antonio de Padua was the third one built in California, founded July 14, 1771, by Father Junipero Serra. Its full name, which is San Antonio de Padua de los Robles means St. Anthony of Padua of the Oaks.

Interesting Facts about Mission San Antonio de Padua

Of all the Spanish missions in California, Mission San Antonio's surroundings have changed the least. Mission San Antonio de Padua was the first to use a red tile roof.

The first European wedding in California was held at San Antonio Mission on May 16, 1773. Juan Mariu Ruiz from El Fuerte, Sonora, Mexico married Margarita de Cortona, a Salinan woman.

Where Is Mission San Antonio de Padua Located?

The mission is five miles northwest of the town of Jolon in Monterey County. You can get the address, hours, and directions at the Mission San Antonio Website.

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History of Mission San Antonio de Padua: 1771 to the Present

©2014 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

In early 1771, Spanish missionaries Father Junipero Serra, Father Pedro Font, and Father Miguel Pieras found an oak-filled valley near the coast of central California.

They took a bronze bell from a mule's pack and tied it to the lower branch of a tree. Father Serra rang the bell and cried out: "Oh, ye Gentiles! Come to the Holy Church! Come to receive the faith of Jesus Christ!"

After founding the mission, Father Serra left Father Pieras and Father Buenaventura Sitjar in charge. They both worked at San Antonio Mission until they died.

In 1773, the Fathers moved the mission north to be near a better water supply. They built several buildings and grew corn and wheat.

In 1774, the time of the first written records at Mission San Antonio de Padua, the mission was doing well. They had 178 Indian neophytes, 68 cattle, and 7 horses.

In 1776, San Antonio hosted the explorer de Anza on his overland trip from Mexico to California.

San Antonio Mission 1800-1820

The years between 1801 and 1805 were the mission's most prosperous. About 1,296 Indians were working there. They spun wool and wove fabric, made leather in a tannery. They also had a carpenter shop, a stable, and a harness shop. In 1804, Fathers Sancho and Cabot arrived.

The Valley of the Oaks is very dry. To be sure the mission had water, Father Sitjar had a dam built across the river in the mountains. A brick-lined channel brought water down to the buildings and fields. A water-powered mill was also built in 1806. Father Sitjar died in 1808.

San Antonio Mission in the 1820s-1830s

By 1827, San Antonio Mission had more than 7,362 cattle, 11,000 sheep, 500 mares and colts, and 300 tamed horses. Harvests were plentiful, and they made wine and baskets.

Secularization and San Antonio Mission

In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission system and sell the land. The Indians could not care for San Antonio Mission by themselves, and their population dwindled to only 140 in 1841.

In 1845, the property was valued at 8,269 reales, but by 1846 its value had declined to 35 reales. No one wanted to buy it, so the Mexican governor sent a Mexican priest, Father Ambris, to take care of it. He tried to take care of the buildings, but when he died in 1882, the structures were abandoned.

San Antonio Mission in the 20th Century

San Antonio Mission sits today near Fort Hunter-Liggett. Thanks to its remoteness and the fact that the surrounding land only had three owners in its history, its surroundings are almost unchanged since 1771.

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Mission San Antonio de Padua Layout, Floor Plan, Buildings and Grounds

Mission San Antonio de Padua Layout
©Betsy Malloy 2002

By  1774, the first buildings were completed. In 1776, they put a red tile roof on their building (the first in California) and completed adobe buildings for the neophytes. There were also storerooms, barracks, warehouses, and shops, and an irrigation ditch to carry water to the fields from the river.

In 1779-1980, a new church was built. It was 133 feet long. The first horizontal-powered water mill in California was built in the early 1800s, and another new church was completed in 1813. 

Many buildings collapsed during heavy rains came in 1825. New, stronger ones replaced them.

After Father Ambris died in 1882, the church statues were moved to Mission San Miguel for safe-keeping. The buildings were abandoned. An antique dealer took off the tile roof and sold them. The adobe walls began to deteriorate. Efforts to restore the church started in 1903, but a 1906 earthquake damaged it beyond repair. Eventually, only a few arches were left.

The Franciscan priests returned in 1940 and began to rebuild the church. With the assistance of the Hearst Foundation, Mission San Antonio was reconstructed. They used mud from the crumbled walls and original tools to make the new adobe bricks.

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