Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Río Carmelo (Photos)

Text provided by Anupama Mande and Khédija Gadhoum

Photos by Brandon Ortega, Santiago Moratto, and Gary Francisco Keller

Of all the Alta California missions, Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo, also known as Carmel Mission, probably has the most unique architecture, including two bell towers, one of which has a Moorish dome. Many also considered the mission to be the most beautiful with its fruit tree orchards and flower gardens. Father Junípero Serra first established Carmel Mission on June 3, 1770, but realized only five weeks later that there was no good agricultural soil nearby. Consequently Father Serra was permitted to move the mission to Carmel Valley. The first mass was held at there on August 24, 1771, and the official move took place the following Christmas Eve.

This mission is named after Saint Charles Borromeo, the Bishop of Milan who died in 1538. Father Serra made it the headquarters for his California missionary work and spent most of his time there. He lived at the mission until his death in 1784 and was buried beside the altar in the adobe church. Inside the chapel there is a wood and bronze sculpture, called the sarcophagus, and it illustrates the death of Father Serra. A small room similar to the one he lived in is now open to the public.

When secularization took place, all of the mission lands except the church were sold to private parties. The church roof collapsed in 1851 and it remained roofless for several years until restoration efforts began in the 1880s.