If you plan to visit Carmel, California, you may be interested in spending some time at the Carmel Mission Basilica, otherwise known as the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. This restored stone basilica was built with sandstone quarried from the Santa Lucia Mountains. The courtyard is filled with an abundance of beautiful flowers and unique religious statues.
Aside from its apparent beauty, the interesting history of this California mission makes it a popular tourist destination. Additionally, people from all over the world make a religious pilgrimage to the basilica. Today, the basilica also serves as the headquarters for the other catholic missions in California. The history of these catholic missions dates back to the Spanish occupation of California and Mexico.
The missions of California were a series of religious outposts that were founded by the Spanish Catholic Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits. The purpose of the California mission was to spread the doctrine of Christianity amongst the Native Americans. The California mission also allowed the Spaniards to bring European livestock, fruits and vegetables to the region. This gave Spain a strong economic presence in the area that was then known as New Spain.
The California mission was one of three agencies used by the Spanish crown to consolidate its territories. The presidio was the military base, and the pueblo was the town. Twenty-one catholic missions were founded under the leadership of a man whose name appears on many California trails, streets and monuments: Father Junipero Serra. Because of Sera's influence on California's history, seven of these 21 catholic missions have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. In fact, in 1961, Pope John XXIII granted the Carmel mission the title of minor basilica. Then, on September 25, 1988, Pope John II beatified Juniper Serra.
Junipero Serra was a professor of theology who was born at Petra, Isla Del Mallorca, on the 24th of November 1713. At the age of 17 he joined the Franciscans. In 1749, he left Spain and headed for the missions of Mexico. At first, the Carmel Mission was located at San Carlos Borromeo. However, Father Junipero Serra was disturbed by the military presence so close to his basilica. Additionally, the soil was not fruitful for growing crops, and the area was too far away from the Native Americans he sought to convert. Thus, one year later, with the help of his Native American converts; he began to build his new mission in the Carmel Valley. When it was finally built, the Carmel Mission Basilica became his headquarters.
The Carmel Mission Basilica was constructed from adobe, which is a sun-dried brick made of mud, manure and straw. The buildings of the mission were laid out in a square formation that surrounded a centralized courtyard. The mission grounds included farmable acres of land. However, despite the best intentions of the Franciscans, by 1823 the Native American population had dwindled. Apparently, many had died because of stomach problems resulting from the Spanish diet, to which they were unaccustomed. As a result, in 1834, the mission was secularized, and the land was dispersed. In 1859, 13 years after the United States had taken control of California, the Carmel Mission Basilica property title was returned to the church.
Today, you can take a self-guided tour through the Carmel Mission Basilica. The tour begins in the Mission courtyards and verandas. Eventually, you reach the church, which has nine bell towers and a large baptismal bath. The interior architecture of the church is quite elaborate and highly ornate. A beautiful nativity scene is painted on the church ceiling. The church also has some of the most significant religious artifacts in California. The restored missionary kitchen has giant pots, garlic strands and a wheelbarrow. You can also see the Franciscan's living quarters. Outside, you find the burial grounds of Junipero Serra.