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Founded in 1823, the last California mission, Mission San Francisco Solano, served only 11 years before its secularization. Today, the mission is part of the Sonoma State Historic Park in the lovely downtown. It is rather small, but theexhibits are impressive in terms of variety and quality, from watercolor paintings of California missions by Chris Jorgensen to flea-market-finds oil paintings and artifacts. The courtyard is anoasis filled with olive trees, walls of cactus and rosemary. Mission San Francisco Solano has also played a vital role in the wine-making history of the Sonoma county.
Founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1779, Mission San Francisco de Asis, also known as Mission Dolores, is the oldest structure in San Francisco. The mission and the city that surrounds it was named after St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. The Mission Dolores has gone through several repairs and renovations since its founding and the mission's original adobe structure still stands on-site, as well as a section of the original cemetery. The mission was the first location to be designated by the City of San Francisco as a protected historical landmark in 1968.
The gleaming centerpiece of the Santa Clara University, this Spanish outpost has undergone numerous facelifts to reach its present-day standing. Behind the ornate, ecru-hued facade are tales and religious stories which date back as far as 1777. The eighth Spanish mission founded along the El Camino Real, this mission strongly upholds the principles of the Franciscan order. The mission church is ornamented with a string of ornate interiors along with a huge wooden cross that fronts it and adds to its charm. Topped by rustic wooden roofs, the mission is awash in quintessential semblances of Neo-colonial architecture. Named after Saint Clare of Assisi, the mission today serves as a magnanimous chapel for the university students.
Established under the Franciscan order in 1797, the Mission San Juan Bautista is a Spanish mission whose name is extended to the city it calls home. The mission is centered around emerald landscapes, and its premises are home to a nunnery, the living quarters of the fathers, and ancient soldiers' dormitories. The interiors of the mission feature an exquisite altar and beautiful paintings. Mission San Juan Bautista's cemetery is a resting place for many Christian natives that inhabited this land. Padre Esteban Tapis, under whose leadership the mission's choir had bloomed, is also interred here.
Also known as Mission Carmel Basilica and more formally, as Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo, this was the second of the nine missions founded by Father Junipero Serra. The area was originally chosen for its agricultural possibilities in 1771, but the temperate climate and exquisite landscape soon made it Father Serra's favorite. The building, which fell into ruins in the 19th Century and has since been completely restored, exhibits classic fortress-like architecture, with thick, bougainvillea-covered walls and a central courtyard. A Moorish-style bell tower contains nine bells and is open to the public. The steps to climb the tower are a bit steep, but the views from that vantage point are magnificent.
Commemorating Saint Louis of Anjou, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is one of the most revered landmarks of the city of San Luis Obispo. The mission was built under the leadership of Junípero Serra, after this city came to his party's rescue when the food supplies at the Carmel Mission dwindled. San Luis Obispo was considered as a bountiful land, and hence the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded here. The church was built with the help of Spanish soldiers, local neophytes and the Chumash community, thereby becoming a symbol of communal harmony. The mission was built in a peculiar style; it has an angelic-white entrance that is graced with a charming fountain having gleeful bear statues. The altar of the mission is serene and has many ancient artifacts. This is a perfect setting for an intimate wedding and other religious ceremonies.
Mission Santa Barbara was established by Father Fermín Lasuén in 1786 and it still stands today as a prominent part of local culture and history. Preserving one of the most extensive and closely monitored collections of colonial Franciscan music manuscripts in the world, Mission Santa Barbara is also defined by its age-old tradition of choral singing in California, performances of which can be heard frequently to this day. In addition to its historic importance, the mission is actively involved with and conducts a number of humanitarian activities for the underprivileged.
Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano is a California icon. Perhaps most famous for visits from its annual guests of honor, the swallows, the Mission means many things to many people. For Californians, it is a powerful symbol of the state's complicated colonial history. For Catholics, it is a profound religious site, indicative of the Church's own complex heritage. History buffs spend hours reveling in the facility's many exhibits and displays, connecting viscerally with the sights, sounds and feelings of generations long past. For visitors of any background, it is an undeniably gorgeous place to spend an afternoon-replete with striking architectural elements and lovingly cared-for gardens.
Founded in 1769, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was the first mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in The Californias. Like many of the Spanish missions that were built along California's famous El Camino Real, the mission is actually the namesake of the major city it's near--in this case, San Diego. The mission experienced a tumultuous history since its founding, and its church building has since been rebuilt five times on the same site. Today, the mission stands as a remarkable example of early California history and is currently registered as a National Historic Landmark.