About the Mission

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Welcome to the Carmel Mission Basilica and the Shrine of Saint Junipero Serra, the Founding Father of California! Today the Mission is an active Catholic Parish, museum, and school, and it is at the center of one of the most historic and beautiful Pacific coast communities in State. This historic site has the great designation of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is both a National and State Historic Landmark.

The Carmel Mission Basilica is the second of the Alta (Upper) California Spanish Missions. It was originally founded on the shores of Monterey in 1770. Soon after its founding the Mission was moved by Francian Father Junipero Serra to its current location near the ocean mouth of the Carmel River in 1771.

Father Serra established the Mission near the river to serve the Esselen and Ohlone communities, the Native Peoples of the region. Then known as Misión de San Carlos Borromeo de rio Carmelo, it served as the evangelistic headquarters for the Alta California Missions three times throughout the Spanish and Mexican era.

In 1784, after 15 years of Missionary work and the creation of seven more Missions (nine in all) Saint Junipero Serra died and was interred in the Church of the Mission. He was succeeded by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén, who built nine more Missions. In 1797, with the tremendous work and efforts of the Carmel Mission Indians, Father Lasuén built the iconic Stone Church, which our faith community continues to worship in today.

The Mission lands and buildings under the Mexican Government were secularized in 1834 and the Mission Indians and Franciscan Fathers were required to leave. By the start of the American Gold Rush in 1850, California had officially become the thirty-first state of the United States, and the Mission fell into disrepair. The Missions collection of colonial art and liturgical artifacts were brought to Monterey. By the end of the 1880’s, the Mission became a historic attraction and was visited by tourists who traveled by newly established train rails to the Monterey Peninsula. The Christian Mission Indian families continued to preserve the site as a sacred space, and services during secularization were held for the community in the Mission Church sacristy yearly on the fest day of San Carlos.

As the State of California formed, the importance of the Carmel Mission to California History helped to establish efforts to restore the Mission. The church roof was first repaired in 1884. In 1933, the Diocese of Monterey enlisted the aid of Harry Downie; the noted Mission restorer worked for 50 years as the Mission Curator, and the Community of Carmel by the Sea grew alongside the Mission’s restoration. Harry Downie labored and partnered with craftsmen, parishioners, and capable assistants, including Richard Menn and Huu Nyguen. In 2013, through the efforts of the community, the Carmel Mission Foundation was formed, and a modern seismic retrofit of the Mission Basilica Church was completed, ensuring the historic building would be secured for the benefit of future generations.

In 2016 the Mission Quadrangle courtyard was restored and improved to meet the needs of our Parish and our yearly schedule of events. We benefit greatly today from their enduring efforts to preserve and protect this sacred space, and we continue in that work today.

Over the years this humble Mission has been host to world leaders, presidents, and kings. In 1960, the Mission was honored with the title of Basilica, and efforts in the cause to canonize Father Junipero Serra were fully formed. The Future Saint, Pope John Paul II, visited the Mission and 1984 and he later beatified Father Serra in Rome, the final step in the process of becoming a Saint.

In 2015 Saint Junipero Serra was Canonized in Washington D.C during his Holiness Pope Francis’s official State visit to the United States. During this historic moment, the Mission Courtyard was at the center of a community celebration, and parishioners and visitors watched the canonization celebration together via satellite, on a live feed.

We warmly welcome you and we hope that you enjoy your visit with us at this sacred place of history, here at the Carmel Mission Basilica, the “Father of the California Missions”!