The Carmel Mission: Quiet and Beautiful

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During a recent business trip to San Francisco, I made a visit of a few days to friends who live near Campbell, CA.  I took the Caltrain down to San Jose – an easy and relatively cheap (at around $9 one-way) way to get out of San Fran towards Silicon Valley.

While their kids went to school, my friends and I made a trip to the coast where, among other things, we visited the town of Carmel.  No Clint Eastwood sightings – bummer!  But we decided to check out the Carmel Mission after having lunch in the charming downtown area.  I had been to the Santa Barbara Mission over a year ago so I was curious on how this one would compare.

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Entering the mission grounds

As luck would have (is it really luck??), this was two days after the canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra who worked, died and is buried at the Carmel Mission.  The timing was definitely great; I only wish Pope Francis had canonized him where he is buried!

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Fr. Serra is buried along with others in the altar area

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St. Junipero Serra looms large!

The Carmel Mission is smaller than the one in Santa Barbara but by no means less charming or interesting.  As with probably most missions, the center of the mission is the church with a cemetery next to it.  Usually there is a vast space or courtyard in the mission and buildings, many of them much newer used for different functions.

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Rudimentary graves

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Along the church’s wall

As you enter, you are properly warned that you could be at risk for an earthquake.  Only in California would the obvious need to be stated in the form of a warning!

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Be warned!

As you can see, it was a clear, beautiful day (I assume this is typical for California) and I am so glad we got to enjoy visiting the mission at such a historical time!

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Glorious skies!

I Have a Mission for You: in Santa Barbara!

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Among the many beautiful things to enjoy in Santa Barbara, California, one of my favorite ones is the Old Mission.  Its architecture, its setting, its history all make it a neat place to visit but what I like the most is that it is still in use by the monks and the locals; in other words, it is not just a museum.

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Approaching the Mission on a beautiful California day

The Santa Barbara Mission is located on what seems to be the outskirts of town but it really takes no time to reach it from the center of Santa Barbara (a very easy place to get around with a car or a bike).  It was established by the Franciscan monks around 1768 as one of the last of a series of missions founded along California by the order.  As with most places where Europeans (or people of European descent), there was contact between the new arrivals and the locals; in this case the Chumash Indians.   The Santa Barbara Mission represents the longest continuous presence of the Franciscans in the United States.

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The Mission is more than the church and the museum; also a mausoleum and retreat center

The structures that have been on the site and are now have gone through changes and repairs, especially due to damage from earthquakes over its lifetime and after a period of civil administration of the site when the structures were not maintained.  Not today:  the structures look well kept up and on a beautiful day (which seems to be every day in Santa Barbara), the Mission is perfect for photos!  Admiring the facade of the mission is not hard.  The ample space outside allows one to step back and soak the whole structure in.

Once inside, one can enjoy the beautiful inner courtyards and outdoor “hallways” of the mission.

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Inner courtyard at the Mission

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I could sit on a rocking chair here and rock away all day!

At some point, one enters the cemetery area on the side of the main church before entering the church itself, following the sequence proposed in the self-tour which, at $7, was a great deal!  They also have led tours which seem would be best to better grasp the history and meaning of the Mission.  Unfortunately, we had less time than the tours require so we did the self-guided version.

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The cemetery outside of the church, near the mausoleum

The church itself has the feel of what makes a place of worship one where I could focus and reflect and pray.  It is simply beautiful.

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Main altar at the church

The Mission is not just a place to go check out if you are in Santa Barbara:  it is one of the reasons you should GO to Santa Barbara!

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The church

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