Visting the Missions of California is one of my favorite day trips to take on the coast. We have several in our area, and we are lucky enough to live in a town with a Mission. The Mission San Miguel was founded in 1797. Father Junipero Serra was the first Spanish Franciscan Friar that founded the first 9 of the 21 Missions in California. His first Mission was in San Diego, and the furthest was in San Francisco. He walked to each of these Mission. It is known that he experienced a lot of pain due to his legs. As the number of Missions grew, it was a goal of the Monks to get the Mission within a days walk from each other. It was not uncommon back then for people to venture for 30 miles. Although, Father Junipero Serra was not the founder of Mission San Miguel, he is the one that started the adventure.
Once inside Mission San Miguel, one can feel the presence of so much history. Fermin Francisco de Lausen was the founder of Mission San Miguel. It is named after Saint Michael. Saint Michael is an Archangel. He is often depicted with a blade in one hand, and scales in the other. It is believed that at the hour of death Saint Michael descends from heaven to allow the soul to defend itself for passage to heaven. It is also believed that he was the leader in the army in Heaven against Satin and the dragon. So, there are depictions of Saint Michael with his foot on the dragon.
The day that Father Fermin he put up a cross on the property, and a bell. Those were usually the first items that marked the land as new Catholic territory. The first Mission was built in 1797, it was burned by 1806. Father Fermin spoke fluent Salinas language, and converted over a thousand Native people to Christianity. The Adobe bricks were made at a near by hot spring. The Mission was finished by 1821, and the frescos that still exist on the interior were painted by Estaban Munras.
The property for Mission San Miguel was expansive. Eighteen miles to the north and south, so this puts the Mission territory well into Monterey County to the north, and well into Paso Robles to the south. Thirty five miles to the south, which puts the Mission territory at the Pacific Ocean. If I am not mistaken the area to the south would be near what is today San Simeon. Sixty six miles to the east, I am pretty sure is in Kern County today. The lands were used for vineyards, orchards, cattle, sheep, oats, corn, peas, barely, and many other crops.
The Mission was closed after the earthquake in 2003, because of the damage to the roof. A very talented artists took the old tiles that had fallen off the roof, and painted on the tiles. The artistic tiles are now sold at the Mission. The Mission is also reopened it’s doors on the feast day of Saint Michael, September 29th 2009. It is also a State and National Historic Landmark.
Here are some really great links…