Missions of Central California (Images of America)
Robert A. Bellezza
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After the discovery of Alta California, the Spanish Crown charged the first Franciscan friars to enter into the New World through Lower Baja, with a succession of conquistadors, explorers, and soldiers, on a trail called El Camino Real or ""The Royal Road."" The settlement began in 1769 at Mission San Diego de Alcalá, a new port and military presidio with buildings of mud, brushwood, and tule grass. Fr. Junípero Serra, the legendary mission presidente and founding father of nine missions, traveled along a worn path lined today by symbolic bell markers leading to many remarkable, modern cities. After 1772, settlements were spread to California's central coast region, filling with native neophytes who became the residents and builders of all mission settlements. The Spanish missions had brought dramatic changes to California's landscape and forged the underpinnings of its earliest history, founded serendipitously with the American Revolution and birth of the United States.
espadaña and three buttresses of the church’s exterior walls, a new, earnest effort to preserve the mission began. The Hearst Foundation provided further funding into 1962, at which time the mission was led by Fr. Timothy O’Sullivan. (Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection.) Populated territories surrounding Mission Santa Inés were of keen interest to the padres. Gov. José Joaquín de Arrillaga sent 10 soldiers with the founding party over the dirt trail leading to the high foothills
courtyard was fully restored to its former beauty and surrounded by lush gardens. The Island Chumash used many mineral substances to create the brilliant colors seen in their art. Several native finds included cinnabar, diatomaceous earth, burned graphite, charcoal, and natural asphalt tars. (Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection.) This old wooden chair, reportedly used by Father Serra, is revered as an early relic at Mission San Buenaventura. (Southwest Museum of the American
master builder José Antonio Ramirez. Before this construction, three adobe churches were built, each larger than the last, to accommodate a growing population at the mission. (Author’s collection.) The presidio site is where Father Serra had accompanied Gov. Felipe de Neve and Capt. José Francisco Ortega with 50 soldiers in 1782, founding California’s fourth military pueblo. Mission Santa Bárbara had been planned before his death and was later founded in 1786 in honor of Saint Barbara, who lived
into a work of art. (Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection.) Mission Santa Bárbara’s cornerstone was laid in 1815, and during the next five years, the mission was continuously worked on. In 1817, Captain Wilcox, an Australian trader visiting the area on his ship Traveller, went across the channel to Santa Cruz Island, returning with enough hewn timbers to complete the mission’s roof beams. (Author’s collection.) This vintage postcard depicts the damage caused to Mission Santa
interior mission cloister garden was extensively redone. (Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection.) Relics of the carefully restored first altar at Mission Santa Bárbara include a hand-drawn choir manuscript. Musical art was greatly encouraged by the friars at many California missions with the use of European instruments and tablature. (Author’s collection.) The tranquility of the monastic lifestyle led by the Franciscan monks is depicted in this photograph of Brother Odoricus.