California Missions: San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo

By: Mark Lopes

As a US citizen, you are sure to be familiar with the twenty-one missions in California. They stand there as the reminders of the Spanish attempts to expand their presence in the region. History says that this had been the favorite of the “Father of Missions”, Father Junipero Serra. Today, the site is known as Carmel Mission.
Carmel Mission is the second of the twenty-one missions built in the region. It is located in Monterey County in California. Visitors are greeted with the splendor of nature displayed in its best here. And, it is known as the headquarters of Father Serra, one among the two of its founding fathers.
Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo was founded in the year 1771. Reports say that it has two founders, Father Serra and Governor Portola. They travelled separate routes to reach here. While the Father travelled by sea to reach here, the Governor came here by the Mainland. The two of them met on Monterey Bay.
They decided to set up the mission on today’s presidio. But, Father Serra did not like the location. He moved it to its present location, Carmel. Here, he decided to settle down to take care of all the missions in the region. This made this the headquarters of the twenty-one missions in the area.
Financial background
San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo had a tough beginning. The site failed to produce enough food for the residents to survive on their own. For this reason, they had to import meat and other materials from other sites. Within a few years, the scarcity became the worst they had to endure; the residents were almost starved to death. However, the mission somehow managed to survive this tough time. It became most prosperous when compared to the twenty others of the kind. This was made possible because of the support it received from the tribesmen of the area. They were mostly farmers, blacksmiths and carpenters. They are the ones who built most of the building for the missions; including its church.
California missions in general
All the twenty-one missions in the area supported themselves and the inhabitants therein on their own. For this, they cultivated wheat and corn. They also had vineyards. When combined with the cultivation of cattle and horses, the economy became truly self-reliant.
San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo Mission today
At present, the mission is a church of the Roman Catholic Diocese Monterey. It also serves as a great venue for entertainments like concerts. The site also features four museums.
• The basilica: This is something unique to the missions in California. The material used to build is stone, unlike the others of the kind which used adobe bricks for the purpose. Its roof is made of terra cotta tile. It also features two bell towers which were added during the time the church was restored.
• Mora Chapel Gallery: The gallery contains the cenotaph of Father Serra made of bronze and travertine marble. You can also see statues of two others priests who were buried in the basilica beside Father Serra. The chapel got its name from the renowned architect Mora. It is he who built the alter tables and other things belonging to the church.
When combined with the Convent museum and two others of the kind, visiting this mission is sure to be a learning experience.

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Visit California Missions and get acquainted with the early history of the region. To get all info at one place visit Old Mission Museum at Oceanside, CA.

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