Mission San Miguel Arcángel

Mission San Miguel Arcángel was founded on July 25, 1797 by the Franciscan order, on a site chosen specifically due to the large number of Salinan Indians that inhabited the area, whom the Spanish priests wanted to evangelize. It is located at 775 Mission Street, San Miguel, California, in San Luis Obispo County.

The mission remains in use as a parish church to this day. After being closed to the public for six years due to the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake, the church re-opened on September 29, 2009. Inside the church are murals designed by Esteban Munras.


Father Presidente Fermin Francisco de Lasuen founded the mission on July 25, 1797, making it the sixteenth California mission. Its location between Mission San Luis Obispo and Mission San Antonio de Padua provided a stop on the trip that had previously taken two days. In 1803, the mission reported an Indian population of 908, while its lands grazed 809 cattle, 3,223 sheep, 342 horses and 29 mules. That year's harvest included about 2,186 fanegas of wheat and corn (A fanega was about 220 pounds). Most of the mission burned, while still being developed, in 1806. It was rebuilt within a year.

On July 15, 1836, the Mexican government secularized mission lands, including Mission San Miguel, and Ygnacio Coronel took charge.

In 1846, Governor Pío Pico sold the Mission for $600 to Petronillo Rios and William Reed. Reed used the Mission as a family residence and a store. In 1848, Reed and his family were murdered, leaving the Mission vacant for a period of time. The Mission was a stopping place for miners coming from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and was consequently was used as a saloon, dance hall, storeroom and living quarters.

In 1859, President James Buchanan returned the Mission to the Church.

In 1878, after 38 years without a resident padre, Father Philip Farrelly became the "First Pastor" of Mission San Miguel Arcángel. Through all the years the priests kept the church in condition and it is called the best-preserved church in the mission chain today. In 1928, Mission San Miguel Arcángel and Mission San Antonio de Padua were returned to the Franciscan order. Since then, the Mission has been repaired and restored, and has one of the best-preserved interiors (which gives one of the best examples of old mission life).

For many years, the Mission served the town as an active parish church of the Diocese of Monterey. Unfortunately, harmonic vibrations from the nearby Union Pacific Railroad main line has weakened the unreinforced masonry structures over the years. The San Simeon Earthquake of December 22, 2003 caused severe damage to the sanctuary at Mission San Miguel. The Catholic Church considered closing the parish due to the extensive damage and the estimated $15 million cost of repairs. Work has since been completed and the Mission reopened on September 29, 2009.

  • The Mission Arcade, a series of 12 arches, is original. The variety of shapes and sizes was planned and the Mission was known for this arcade.
  • The first chapel on the site was replaced within a year of its construction by a larger adobe chapel, which burned in the 1806 fire.
  • The current mission church was built between 1816 and 1818. It is 144 long, 27 feet (8.2 m) wide, and 40 feet (12 m) high.
  • The cemetery adjacent to the church holds the remains of 2,249 Native Americans listed in the Mission's burial records.
  • The painted walls inside the church are the original artwork by artist Esteban Munras and other Salinan artists.
Mission bells

Bells were vitally important to daily life at any mission. The bells were rung at mealtimes, to call the Mission residents to work and to religious services, during births and funerals, to signal the approach of a ship or returning missionary, and at other times; novices were instructed in the intricate rituals associated with the ringing the mission bells.

Building Activity

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