Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

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Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
Mission San Carlos Borroméo del rí­o Carmelo, also known as the Carmel Mission, is a Roman Catholic mission church in Carmel, California. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It was the headquarters of the original upper Las Californias Province missions headed by Father Juní­pero Serra from 1770 until his death in 1784. The mission also was the seat of the padre presidente, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. It was destroyed in the mid-19th century, only to be restored beginning in 1884. It remains a parish church today. It is the only one to have its original bell tower dome.

The mission, first established on June 3, 1770, in nearby Monterey, (near the native village of Tamo), was named for Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Italy. It was the site of the first Christian confirmation in Alta California. In May, 1771, the viceroy approved Serra's petition to relocate the mission to its current location near the present-day town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Serra's goal was to put some distance between the mission's neophytes and the Presidio of Monterey, (the headquarters of Pedro Fages, who served as military governor of Alta California between 1770 and 1774, with whom Serra was engaged in a heated power struggle). The original site continued to operate as the "Royal Presidio Chapel" and later became the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo. "Mission Carmel" (as it came to be known) was Serra's favorite and, being close to Monterey (the capital of Alta California), served as his headquarters. When he died on August 28, 1784, he was interred beneath the chapel floor. The Esselen and Ohlone Indians who lived near the mission were taken in and trained as plowmen, shepherds, cattle herders, blacksmiths, and carpenters. They made adobe bricks, roof tiles and tools needed to build the mission. In the beginning, the mission relied on bear meat from Mission San Antonio de Padua and supplies brought by ship from Mission San Diego de Alcalá. In 1794, the population reached its peak of 927, but by 1823 the total had dwindled to 381. On November 20, 1818, French privateer Hipólito Bouchard raided the Monterey Presidio, before moving on to other Spanish installations in the south. The mission was in ruins when the Roman Catholic Church regained control of it in 1863. In 1884 Father Angel Casanova undertook the work of restoration. In 1931, Monsignor Philip Scher appointed Harry Downie to be curator in charge of mission restoration; it became an independent parish two years later. In 1961, the mission was designated as a minor basilica by Pope John XXIII. In 1987, Pope John Paul II visited the mission as part of his U.S. tour. As a result, of his dedication, the Carmel mission church is one of the most authentically restored of all the mission churches in California.

Mission Carmel has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. It is also an active parish church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey. Masses are held at 7am, noon and 5:30pm Monday-Friday, Saturday at 8:30am and 5:30pm, and Sunday at 7:30am, 9:30am, 11am, 12:30pm, and 5:30pm. In addition to its activity as a place of worship, Mission Carmel also hosts concerts, art exhibits, lectures and numerous other community events. In 1986, Monsignor Eamon MacMahon, then pastor of Carmel Mission, acquired a magnificent Casavant organ complete with horizontal trumpets for the basilica. Its hand-painted casework is decorated with elaborate carvings and statuary reflecting the Spanish decorative style seen on the main altar. Carmel also serves as a museum, preserving its own history and the history of the area. There are four specific museum galleries: the Harry Downie museum, describing restoration efforts; the Munras Family Heritage Museum, describing the history of one of the most important area families; the Jo Mora Chapel Gallery, hosting a cenotaph sculpted by Jo Mora as well as rotating art exhibits; and the Convento Museum, which holds the cell Serra lived and died in, as well as interpretive exhibits. Visiting hours from 9:30am 5pm Monday through Saturday and 10:30am to 5pm on Sundays. The mission grounds are also the location of the Junipero Serra School, a private Catholic school for kindergartners through 8th grade. At one end of the museum is a special chapel room containing some of the vestments used by Serra.

Notable interments
Several notable people are buried in the church and churchyard.
  • Juan Crespí­ (1721”“1782), Spanish missionary and explorer
  • Fermí­n Lasuén (1736”“1803), Spanish missionary
  • José Antonio Roméu, Spanish governor of California
  • Juní­pero Serra (1713”“1784), founder of the mission