I have been to several California Missions in my day but the Carmel Mission (aka San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo) has always been my favorite. Wouldn’t you know that it was Father Junipero Serra’s, the founder of the California Mission system, favorite mission as well? I have visited the mission on several occasions but this time I had the opportunity to attend a Roman Catholic Mass.
I’m not a member of the Catholic Church, so I felt a tad out of my comfort zone but luckily I went with someone who had been born and raised in the Catholic tradition. The service was traditional but the surroundings, dating back to the late 1700s, made it memorable and moving. The baroque-influenced altarpiece stands front and center which captures your eye after gazing at the high ceilings. The traditional hymns were paired perfectly with the reed organ.
After mass we headed out through the decorated America Indian cemetery where over 200 natives have been laid to rest. Indians were vital to the construction and operation of the mission and were trained as carpenters, cattle herders and blacksmiths.
The cemetery then led to the area behind the church where they were serving coffee and donuts for a minimal fee. The Munras courtyard area also hosted a farmers’ market booth that featured organic local produce, perfect for a Sunday dinner. This was the icing on the historical cake as several medieval churches would hold similar markets in their courtyards as well.
After soaking up a little caffeine I wandered through the main courtyard. You can’t help but linger around the mission grounds and admire the well kept gardens. I always enjoy imagining what kind of activities must have occurred here 200 years ago.
As soon as you make your way into the Mora Chapel Gallery you are struck by the tomb of Father Junipero Serra. The bronze and marble sarcophagus lies beneath the main altar which is also a common area for prayer. Wood from the original coffin and a few of Serra’s belongings are also on display.
The rest of the Convento Museum portrays how the mission looked and operated in its heyday. Displays include depictions of the living room, kitchen, guest room and Father Serra’s bedroom. The last room is my favorite. It displays how Father Serra’s room would have looked like with just a modest layout and uncomfortable looking bed. It is truly a step back in time!
The Museum Store is a great way to end the tour. Here you can buy a statue, rosary, nativity scene and other religious artifacts. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30am-5pm and Sunday from 10:30am-5pm.
Sunday Mass Schedule and Tours
Sunday masses are held in the Carmel Mission Basilica at 7:30am, 9:15am, 11:00am and 12:45pm. Self-guided tours are available Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 5:00pm and on Sunday from 10:30am to 5:00pm. Admission is $6.50 for adults, $4 for seniors, $2 for youth and free for children six and under.
Carmel Mission3080 Rio RoadCarmel, CA 93923View Larger Map
Author: Allyson Ryan
As the Content Manager at the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Allyson manages digital marketing and social media for SeeMonterey. If she's not taking scenic pictures around the county, you are likely to find her on the Monterey Bay Coastal Rec Trail, sipping wine in Carmel Valley or hiking at Fort Ord National Monument.