Friday, October 1, 2010

"Turn Right" (Don't Ask Why)

There are days when we wonder how we traveled distances without the aid of a GPS system.

And then there was the day we were looking for the Mission of San Carlos Borromeo, south of Carmel (CA). A quick glance at a map showed that it was just off Route 1.

Well, "quick" and "glance" were not enough to provide me with the level of certainty to disregard the instructions from "the voice in the box."

So when we were directed into the town of Carmel, I thought that the Mission must be farther off Route 1 than I had imagined.

As we drove through the narrow streets of this picturesque town, following the voice's instructions for every turn, we became more and more enamored with the "good old days" of following a map.

We emerged at Route 1 with instructions to turn right and head one block south to the road to the Mission--without any apology from the voice for leading us through Carmel for no purpose whatsoever.

But before us was the mission.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (the Carmel Mission) is believed by many to be the most beautiful of all California missions.

Padre Junipero Serra founded the Mission in 1770, one of eight California missions he established during his lifetime. When he moved into the Carmel Mission, the first Church and dwellings were made of wood.

Following Padre Serra's death, it was Padre Lasuén who, in 1793, undertook the construction of the present stone church. It was built with native sandstone from the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains and erected on the site of the original adobe chapel.

The ceiling follows the curve of the interior walls forming a centenary arch.

The tower (photo below) is of Moorish design and holds nine bells. The church was four years in construction and was dedicated in 1797.

In 1834, the Mission was secularized, i.e., the church was changed in status to a conventional parish, and gradually the church fell into ruin. The great stone mission church was abandoned and for 30 years stood roofless after its collapse in 1851.

It was not until 1884 that Father Angel Casanova began the work of saving the historic landmark. A wooden roof was put on the mission, and while this saved the structure, it was not in keeping with the original architectural syle of the church.

The latest restoration, begun in the 1930's, has restored a more suitable roof, and is believed to be the most authentic restoration in the entire mission chain.

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