Visit to Carmel Mission
By Tim Healy

      In July Annette and I had the wonderful experience of visiting the Basilica Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo (Carmel Mission) in Carmel, California. This was the second mission in California, founded on June 3, 1770. The mission was originally on the shore of Monterrey Bay, however Fr. Serra was concerned about the mission’s proximity to the Presidio, and he moved the mission to its present site near Carmel Bay on August 24th, 1771.
       The mission church, completed in 1793, is often described as “The Gem of the Missions” and it is a working parish, complete with a school. In 1960 the church was elevated to minor Basilica status. It is considered to be one of California’s most historic monuments.
      The church’s bell towers display a Moorish influence, and are unique because the left tower contains two bells, the right tower has only one bell. The star-shaped window, which was originally designed to be rectangular, is a striking architectural statement. Also, the two paintings of Fr. Serra (that are also used in this Website's design) are displayed at the mission.

Church Exterior
Main Entrance, Bell Towers, and Star-Shaped Window

View from Garden

       The vaulted ceiling of the church is formed by stone catenary arches, which created a sense of awe when we entered the church.

Interior of the Basilica

       The mission was Fr. Serra’s headquarters, and where he lived a simple life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He became known as the Father-Presidente of the entire mission chain.

Fr. Serra's Room, Showing Plank Bed

Right Side of Fr. Serra's Room

      Fr. Serra died on August 28th, 1784. He is buried at the foot of the main altar, along with Fr. Fermin Lasuen, who succeeded him, and with some of his fellow Franciscans.

Main Altar and Fr. Serra's Grave
Main Altar, Fr. Serra's Grave at Lower Left

      Other views of the church are shown below.

Side View of Bell Tower

Rear of Church

Kitchen, Showing Beehive Oven

Passion of Christ Chapel Showing
Altar of Our Lady of Bethlehem


Fr. Serra's Bronze Statue
Fr. Serra's Bronze Statue

      Annette and I highly recommend a visit to the Carmel Mission. It leaves you with a feeling of personal contact with Fr. Serra and a greater understanding of what he accomplished.
      If you are on a budget, be advised that Carmel, California is an expensive town. Our hotel bill in a national-chain motel for one night, which we expected to be about $85, was $209. plus tax. The trick is to arrive at the mission early in the morning, enjoy the tour, then get on down the road a hundred miles or so before stopping for the night.

All photos Copyright 2003 by Tim Healy

Go to Junipero Serra's Biography page

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