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Mission San Miguel Arcangel
Mission San Miguel Arcangel was the sixteenth one built in California, founded July 25, 1797, by Father Fermin Lasuen. The name San Miguel comes from Saint Michael, Captain of the Armies of God.
Interesting Facts about Mission San Miguel Arcangel
Mission San Miguel is the only one with unretouched original paintings. It was the last to be secularized
Where Is Mission San Miguel Located?
Mission San Miguel is at 775 Mission Street in San Miguel, CA. You can get the address, hours, and directions at the Mission San Miguel Website.Continue to 2 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Interior
The church's exterior is quite plain, and its architecture is simple. However, it is elaborately decorated inside with frescoes. An unusual feature is the "all-seeing eye of God" above the altar.Continue to 3 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Altar
The design above the altar is called the "all-seeing eye of God."
The screen on the wall behind the main altar is called a reredos. You can find out about it and more terms in the California mission glossary.Continue to 4 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Pulpit
The pulpit is typical for a church of the period, raised above the floor to make it easy to see. This picture shows the sounding board that hangs above it to reflect the priest's voice downward toward the congregation.Continue to 5 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Frescoes
The frescoes at Mission San Miguel are some of the most beautiful and best-preserved of any California mission, especially after their restoration in the early 2000s.
The original paintings were done in 1820-21, painted by the mission Indians, working with Spanish diplomat and artist Esteban Carlos Munras of Monterey. The style is called neoclassical, and the painting is sometimes called trompe l’oeil which means "fool the eye." Besides the blue columns you see here, the wall decorations include fake fabrics and marble.Continue to 6 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Choir Loft
The choir loft is located above the front door of the church.Continue to 7 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel CemeteryThis cemetery contains some very interesting markers, for people from all over the world who were buried at San Miguel in the late 1800s.Continue to 8 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel State Landmark Plaque
Mission San Miguel is California state landmark number 326.Continue to 9 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Mission Bells
These bells are seen from the cemetery, atop a long wall section behind the main church. They structure they hang in wasn't part of the original mission, but was built in the mid-1930s by Jess Crettoll, a stonemason from Switzerland. The largest bell is said to weigh 2,000 pounds and was made in 1888 by melting and re-casting six cracked and broken bells from other missions.
According to the mission website, Father Mut raised money to have the bell made, a total of $653, which would be more than $15,000 today. Read more here.Continue to 10 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Courtyard
The courtyard area is off limits to visitors, but we got this peek at it through a breezeway.Continue to 11 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel KitchenThis kitchen is part of the museum, which is open for tours daily.Continue to 12 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Oven and CartThis outdoor oven is typical of those you'll see at many California missions, as is the cart in the background. Both show what things were like during the mission days.Continue to 13 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Olive Press
The olives were harvested and put into net bags, then the bag was placed between the two boards near the bottom of the press. As the mechanism in the middle turned, it pressed the bag and the olive oil ran out into the trough below.Continue to 14 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Mission Bell
Mission San Miguel never had a formal bell tower like other missions, and for most of its history, the bells hung from simple wooden structures. The original bell cracked, and Mission San Antonio loaned them this one, cast in Mexico City in 1800. It is inscribed "S. S. Gabriel A. D. 1800."
This mission bell now hangs in front of the mission, under one of the arches. These days, it's covered with netting to keep the birds off, but we caught this picture of it before they put the nets in. This bell wasContinue to 15 of 17 below.
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History of Mission San Miguel: 1797 to Today
The summer of 1797 was busy for Father Fermin Lasuen. On July 24, 1797, he founded the third mission that summer, named for Saint Michael. It was next to a large Salinan Indian Village called Cholam or Cholami. Halfway between San Luis Obispo and San Antonio, it gave a place to stop along the El Camino Real.
Salinan Indians heard about the Fathers before they came and were anxious to join them. At San Miguel Mission's founding, 25 children were baptized. A long, peaceful relationship began.
Early Years of San Miguel Mission
Father Buenaventura Sitjar was the first administrator. Father Juan Martin took his place. By the end of the first year, Fathers and Indians had built a 71-foot-long brush fence, an adobe chapel, and a house.
San Miguel Mission 1800-1820
San Miguel Mission grew quickly. More than 1,000 neophytes were there by 1803. By 1805, there were 47 Indian houses.
Despite poor soil and hot climate, San Miguel Mission succeeded. Indians came to live and work. Some worked in fields... and vineyards or were herdsmen. Others learned to be carpenters, stone masons, blacksmiths, weavers, soap makers, leather workers or other trades. The workers were especially good at making roof tiles and made 36,000 of them between 1808 and 1809.
A serious fire destroyed most of San Miguel's buildings and supplies in 1806, but other missions helped them. By 1810, San Miguel had 10,558 cattle; 8,282 sheep and 1,597 horses.
San Miguel Mission in the 1820s-1830s
Father Martin died in 1824. His assistant Father Juan Cabot took over. In 1827, Father Cabot reported San Miguel owned several ranchos covering an area that extended 18 miles north and south, 66 miles east and 35 miles west. He also reported it had an adobe house on the coast at San Simeon.
At a hot spring south of the mission, Father Cabot had a shelter built where the Indians could soak and get relief from arthritis, a common ailment.
San Miguel Mission always had good relationships with the natives. In 1831, when secularization was coming, the Indians could leave, but none of them did.
San Miguel Mission was the last secularized, on July 14, 1836. Three years later, most of the natives were gone. Father Abella, the last Franciscan Father left, died in 1841.
In 1846, Governor Pio Pico sold the land and buildings. The new owner lived in it and had a store there. After the Gold Rush, it was a stopping place for miners traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and it was used for a saloon, one of the most popular along the El Camino Real.
In 1878, the Catholic church returned. Father Philip Farrelly became the first pastor.
San Miguel Mission in the 20th Century
In 1928, the Franciscan Fathers returned. After earthquake damage in 2003, the old mission has now been repaired. Restoration continues.Continue to 16 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Layout, Floor Plan, Buildings and Grounds
The original church was destroyed in a fire in 1806. In 1808, the fathers built a granary, carpenter room and a sacristy.
In 1814, construction began on a new church. It was soon ready for its roof, but it took a long time to bring the roofing timbers from the nearby mountains, 40 miles away, and the church was not completed until 1818. The building is 144 feet long, 27 feet wide and 40 feet tall, with six-foot-thick walls.Continue to 17 of 17 below.
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Mission San Miguel Cattle Brand
The Mission San Miguel picture above shows its cattle brand. It was drawn from samples on display at Mission San Francisco Solano and Mission San Antonio.