Continuing on from my previous post about my obsession with California’s Missions (read about the first one for background information) the next mission to be founded was on the outskirts of Carmel, 5 miles south of Monterey. I first saw this mission on my PCH trip, but unfortunately arrived there too late to go inside the grounds. On my next visit to California we were staying in Santa Clara and I took the opportunity to drive back to Carmel and visit this lovely Mission. It is considered to be the loveliest mission in the chain of nine missions that stretches along California’s Central Coast.
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Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Rio Carmelo is more popularly known as Carmel Mission. It was founded on June 3, 1770 and was the second mission founded by Junipero Serra and was the headquarters of the Alta California missions until his death in 1784. Set close to the sea and mountains south of San Francisco this delightful mission is built in the typical quadrangle courtyard architecture which is quite Moorish in design and the façade has a star-shaped window directly above the main entrance. The mission was abandoned and in ruins by the mid-1900s. Restoration began in the 20th century. It is a National Historic Landmark, and its basilica is still an active Catholic church.
But it is the gardens which have drawn me here, they include culinary and medicinal herbs, Mexican sage, citrus and olive trees, roses, bougainvillea and the graceful tall stalks of Echiums festooned with violet-blue, funnel-shaped flowers. . The small courtyard you first enter into is exquisite with flowers, bubbling fountains, statues and the Basilica facing you popular with artists who set up their easels and attempt to capture this beauty. The profusion of flowers against the old stonework, or background of white-washed adobe walls and the variety of species and colours are spectacular. Drought-resistant plants are used throughout creating dramatic visual spaces with texture and colour. Even the graves in the small graveyard are adorned with abalone shells.
One thing I like about all the Missions is the spiritual beauty and tranquillity of the space. This complex holds five museums including the Basilica church, which show the history of this important Californian site.
I would recommend anyone who is interested in historical sites or beautiful gardens to see this place. It was a great experience.