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Visiting Father Serra's Historic Missions in California.
The History of The Spanish Missions in California.
In 1713 Father Junipero Serra was born in Petra, Mallorca Spain. Born Miguel Jose Serra he later took the name Junipero in honor of Saint Jupiter. In 1729, at age 16, Father Serra entered the Order of the Friars Minor and was later ordained to the priesthood. In 1749 he volunteered to serve the Franciscan Missions in the New World.
Father Junipero Serra made the long journey to North America, landing at Vera Cruz, Mexico. Escorted by Spanish soldiers, Father Serra and his party traveled by foot to Mexico City then to Lower California (Baja Mexico) eventually establishing 15 missions.
While the American Colonies were rebelling against England, Spain began settlement of Alta California (Upper California). In 1769 Father Serra established the first mission in San Diego on Presidio Hill , a fortified military settlement in what is now Old Town San Diego. He called it Mission San Diego de Alcala. The mission was later moved to what is now known as Mission Valley to better serve the native Kumeyaay (Ku-me-eye) Indians in the area.
In 1775 local Indians attacked the mission, burned it to the ground, and killed Fr. Luis Jaime. Two others were also killed. Urselino, the mission carpenter, and the blacksmith Jose Romero.
Father Serra traveled 700 miles by foot from San Diego to Sonoma. He eventually established 9 missions. A total of 21 missions were established in Alta California from 1769 - 1823. The missions were each a days ride by horseback apart (about 30 miles) up the California coastline along El Camino Real.
El Camino Real is the Spanish name for The Royal Road or The Kings Highway. Originally a footpath, it was used to connect the missions. As more missions were built the small footpath was more heavily used. It eventually become a roadway wide enough for horses and wagons. By the time the last Mission in Sonoma was built the pathway was a real route and connected all 21 missions. It connected Mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego to the south to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma to the north.
By 1902 modern El Camino Real was one of the first state highways in California. The decision was made to mark the road with bells as there were no road signs at the time. By 1915 there were 158 bells installed along El Camino Real. Each cast iron bell weighed 100 pounds and was placed one to two miles apart. The bells served as highway markers and guideposts, marking directions and miles to neighboring towns on signs attached below the bell. By 1949 there were 286 bells along the road.
Today parts of the historic route are covered by modern highways. U.S. Highway 101 follows the general route of the original trail and you can still catch a few of the historic bells along the way.
The origin of the wild mustard that blooms all over California in spring is a legend credited to Father Serra. Traditon has it the padres brought wild mustard seeds with them from Spain to the New World. Traveling from mission to mission, exploring California, the padres scattered the wild mustard seeds along the path to create a golden pathway home.When the explorers returned in spring the mustard plants flowered. The blooms were a bright mustard yellow color. They could follow the “ribbon of gold” home.
Today wild mustard grows all over California. Napa Valley holds a mustard Festival every year to celebrate the blooms.
In 1770 Father Serra moved north to Monterey and founded Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Then 1771 - Mission San Antonio de Padua, 1771 - Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, 1772 - Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, 1776 - Mission San Juan Capistrano, 1776 - Mission San Francisco de Asis, 1777 - Mission Santa Clara de Asis, and 1782 - Mission San Buenaventura. In 1782 Father Serra was also present at the Presidio in Santa Barbara but did not found the mission. By 1782 Father Serra had established seven more missions along the California coastline.
Shortly after the founding of Mission San Buenaventura a large wooden cross was planted on a hill overlooking the Mission. It served as a road sign for travelers in search of the mission. The cross has been replaced and improvements made numerous times. The land became Grant Park in 1918 when 107 acres were donated to the City of Ventura by the Grant family.
The Rev. Fermín Francisco Lasuén founded the next nine missions: 1786 - Santa Barbara, 1787 - La Purisima Concepción, 1791 - Santa Cruz, 1791 - Nuestra Señora de la Soledae, 1797 - San José de Guadalupe, 1797 - San Juan Bautista, 1797 - San Miguel Arcángel , 1797 - San Fernando Rey de Espana, 1798 - San Luís Rey de Francia.
Others founded the next three missions: 1804 - Santa Inés, 1817 - San Rafael Arcángel, 1823 - San Francisco Solano de Sonoma
The last three years of his life Father Serra suffered from ill health and a crippled leg from a snake bite. However, he traveled more than 600 miles to again visit his missions from San Diego to San Francisco. He confirmed 5,309 people, all who had been baptized. Most of the people baptized were Native Indians, converted over 14 years from 1770.
In 1784, at the age of 70, Father Junípero Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel, Ca. and was buried under the sanctuary floor. Mission relics and Father Serra's personal belongs are on display in the Mission’s Museum.
In 1988 Pope John Paul II beatified Father Serra, a step toward sainthood. Some Native American groups oppose this. They claim the mission system beat and mistreated Native American Indians and created population and cultural losses. Many Native American Indians died as they had no defense against diseases brought to The New World by Europeans.
Father Serra's biographers write he believed "laughter was inconsistent with the terrible responsibilities of his probationary existence. Not a joke or a jovial action is recorded of him. He considered it his duty to inflict upon himself bitter pain. He often lashed himself with ropes, sometimes wires." Historians note that this reflected a common attitude of missionaries at the time and native Indians were considered children. It was acceptable to beat them.
Today many cities in California have features such as streets and trails, named after Father Serra. Alameda Padre Serra a street in Santa Barbara and Father Junipero Serra Trail in San Diego are examples. From government offices to private residences, mission architecture is prevalent throughout California.
From A to Z you can find English language words that can be traced to the Spanish language Father Serra brought with him to the New World. These Spanish loan words include avocado, coyote, hurricane, mustang, patio, and the list goes on and on.
Controversial or not the missions Father Serra established are a large part of California's history and culture. A reminder of the melding of two different ways of life: the Indians' natural world ties and Spanish decreed Catholicism.
Mission Santa Ines is in the City of Solvang, Ca. Be sure to spend time in this Dutch oriented city. There is plenty of window shopping to do.
Be sure to visit the rose garden at Mission Santa Barbara. Spectacular! You may find a docent in the garden who will treat you to lots of information.
Visit Grant Park in the City of Ventura, Ca. and view Father Serra's cross. Have a picnic and enjoy the best views in the City of Ventura. http://www.ventura.com/activities/parks/grantpark/
Visit Mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego, Ca. in July for the Festival of Bells. www.festivalofbells.com
Visit Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, Ca. in June for the Annual Inter-Tribal Pow Wow. http://www.slrmissionindians.org/Site/Events.html
Visit the Juan Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma.
Are we there yet? What to take on a road trip:
An ice chest with food, snacks and drinks for everyone. Forget sharing.
Don't forget your chargers, headphones, earplugs, meds, and a trash bag.
Take along your Kindle and cell phone to keep yourself and the kids occupied on long road trips. Download any ebooks or apps that can help you.
Remember to take along a great camera. We found the Sony Nex-5 to be light weight and user friendly.
Streets, freeways, and traffic jams are frustrating. Take along a good GPS system and visit off season.
- 21 CALIFORNIA MISSIONS and MAP
- San Diego de Alcal | California Missions Resource Center
Visitor information, hours, directions. Key mission facts.
Kindle Edition E-Books
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