Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

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Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (1770-1834) - A Spanish mission first established in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra in present day Monterey, Monterey County, California. Associated with the Presidio of Monterey. Named for Archbishop Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Italy. Secularized in 1834. Also known as Mission Carmel.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Chapel Altar
Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Sanctuary
Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

The Spanish Period (1769-1821)

The Spanish period began in California with the building of Mission San Diego de Alcala, and the Presidio of San Diego in 1769. The Spanish Presidio provided a support system for the attached missions that included military troops. The mission provided provided a complete community for the converted native peoples that included agriculture and industry activities as well as religious instruction and services. Typically a very limited military presence was maintained at the missions and the presidio acted as the garrison for the surrounding missions.

Grave of Father Serra at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
Father Serra's Room at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded on 3 Jun 1770, by Father Junipero Serra, as the 2nd of twenty-one Spanish missions founded in California. Father Presidente Serra initially operated from the nearby Presidio of Monterey but moved his operations to Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo on 24 Dec 1771. He used the mission as his headquarters until his death in 1784. Father Serra was buried beneath the floor of the sanctuary at the Mission.

The mission was garrisoned with five soldiers provided by and under the control of the Presidio of Monterey. Six more soldiers were in the garrison at Mission San Antonio de Padua leaving only five soldiers and Lieutenant Fages in garrison at the Presidio. In 1771 the total Alta California garrison numbered only 43 men.

Mexican Period (1822-1846)

The Mexican period began with the end of the Mexican Revolution around 1820. Mexican troops occupied the presidios and Mexican governors ran the province of Alta California. The Mexican government began the process of secularization (turning church lands over to private interests) around 1831 and passed laws in 1833 mandating secularization of all missions in Mexico. Secularization gradually ended church ownership of community property. Most of the missions and presidios were abandoned and fell into disrepair as the lands were redistributed to private owners. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was secularized in 1834.

The American Period (1846-Present)

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Ruins circa 1884

The Mexican War was declared by the U.S. Congress on 11 May 1846 in response to a Mexican attack on U.S. troops in Texas. The declaration of war opened the door for American occupation of California. The American period began when American forces occupied San Diego in 1846. With end of the war, Mexico ceded all of upper California to the Americans in 1848 and a new round of land redistribution began.

On 19 Feb 1853, Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany filed a claim on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the return of all former mission lands in the State of California. Ownership of 1,051 acres (for all practical intents being the exact area of land occupied by the original mission buildings, cemeteries, and gardens) was transferred back to the Catholic Church by land patents and proclamations signed by U.S. Presidents between 1855 and 1874. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was returned to the Catholic Church in 1859.

Current Status

Restored mission in Carmel, Monterey County, California. Also the site of an active parish church and Junipero Serra Elementary School.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 228842

Location: 3080 Rio Road, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 36.5426444 Long: -121.9197322


  • Horne, Kibbey M., A history of the Presidio of Monterey 1770-1970, Defense Language Institute West Coast Branch, California, 1970, Reprinted 2007, 58 pages, page 8-9


Visited: 1 Dec 2013

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