Missions – San Miguel (and other bits)

Mission San Miguel Arcangel yard Gate

Mission San Miguel Arcangel yard Gate

Each mission has it’s own character. Each one tells you something just a little different from the last. In this mission, named for Saint Michael, the Arc-angel, as am I… we found a working mission. It is still in use as a novitiate. On interesting thing was the degree to which humor can be found here.

San Miquel Olive Tree

San Miquel Olive Tree

The observer will note that this picture shows the parking area (see car parts) along with what was the old highway that runs just in front of the mission. In the background is the railroad line. Smack in the middle is a very old olive tree. It gets priority rights… even if it does look a bit battered near bumper height.

And the Padres have some humor about it.

Olive Tree Sign in front of cars

Olive Tree Sign in front of cars

The Interior is Spectacular

Inside Mission San Miquel

Inside Mission San Miquel

The walls are covered in art and some of the best preserved interiors from that era.

San Miquel Wall Art

San Miquel Wall Art

San Miquel Interior Pulpet

San Miquel Interior Pulpet

San Miquel Wall Art2

San Miquel Wall Art2

At the far end of this walkway the photographer is doing a photo shoot for a quince anos.

Quince Anos at Mission San Miquel under walkway

Quince Anos at Mission San Miquel under walkway

From The Front and Side Bells

Mission San Miguel Outside Front from accross the highway

Mission San Miguel Outside Front from accross the highway

And I love what they did with some old rocks. A good example of ‘never running out’ of resources. We never run out of rocks and mud.

Mission San Miguel Side Bells in Stoneworks

Mission San Miguel Side Bells in Stoneworks

In the middle of this rock wall is a narrow stairway for the bell ringer to climb to ring the bells.

Mission San Miguel Stone Stairway

Mission San Miguel Stone Stairway

The Courtyard

San Miguel Courtyard

San Miguel Courtyard

While I like the way that picture gives a better idea what the courtyard is like (angles are limited as most of the courtyard is available for the Novitiates and not for the public) I like the way the tree frames the statue in this one just a bit better.

San Miquel Courtyard and Mary Under A Tree

San Miquel Courtyard and Mary Under A Tree

Other Bits Interest Me

I admit it. I’m interested in the technology of the era. I also like to take pictures of interesting ‘textures’. Yes, I have photos of tarmac, walls and floors, leaves up close. Lots of textures. So this picture of an exterior “stove” caught my eye. Both for the simple construction with fine function, but also for the textures of the pavers and the surfaces. The use of iron bars lets you lay on a solid griddle, a wire grill, or just lay kebab skewers over the heat.

Simple, cheap, available materials. Yet with a sturdy elegance about it.

Exterior Grill at Mission San Miguel

Exterior Grill at Mission San Miguel

“out back” is the more modern equivalent, where meals can be cooked for large groups. They have a bunch of tables and chairs too.

San Miquel more modern BBQ out back

San Miquel more modern BBQ out back

The inside kitchen is interesting too. All made of mud and clay, with just a few bits of wood and a couple of iron items to round out the ‘kit’. I could easily be comfortable cooking for dozens of folks here.

Hornillo Description

Hornillo Description

Hornillo - Charcoal Stove

Hornillo - Charcoal Stove

Horno - Oven Description

Horno - Oven Description

Just across the room from the stove.

San Miguel Mission inside oven and smoking rack

San Miguel Mission inside oven and smoking rack

Notice the wood beams overhead. They are used for smoking meat and fish over the oven when the fire is warming it. So you can prepare some smoked salmon and jerky while the oven is warming up, then bake bread and venison while the dried / smoked foods are cooled and stored. Not a bad life.

While on the subject of food, when traveling from Mission San Antonio de Padua to Mission San Miguel, we went through the dinky town of Lockwood. We were hungry, and decided to ‘not be picky’ and just eat at the roadside ‘whatever’. From the outside, it looked like the typical ‘burned burger and dry fries’ stop:

Lockwood Store and Diner

Lockwood Store and Diner

The prices looked a tiny bit high, but OK, we’re in the middle of nothing for as far as we can see, so what the heck. In all other directions you see nothing but open ground. Across the street is an ‘outhouse’ sized shack for a person to read the scales of a truck scale on the roadside, and not much else. The Post Office is about a block (empty) away and is the size of a large living room. Yeah, not much ‘there there’.

Boy were we surprised, and pleasantly so. The cook (who looked like a large tattooed biker) was in fact a very pleasant fellow. Our waitress was polite, personable, and ‘a little bit country’. I think she went on the back of the bike… cute, petite, and charming.

I ordered a ‘pulled pork sandwich’ that was just great. I asked for a little extra sauce (as the very large filling was falling out into the basket as I ate, and I needed a fork and some sauce to do justice to it all). Just bun, pork, and some cabbage with sauce. Yet it was wonderful. My wife ordered a ‘grilled ahi salad’. We expected some kind of tuna patty and lettuce. What she got was a perfectly done pan seared fillet of Ahi. Grilled so that the inside was still like sushi, but the outside was flavored of the grill; then sliced into ‘fingers’ and laid over a bed of mixed greens.

Just perfectly done. Something you would expect at a high end Brew Pub (and I’ve had worse and paid more for it at such places…). I asked for the cook to give them the complement and that’s when I discovered that these were really nice folks. They have only been open a couple of months, but I’m pretty sure they will succeed.

The place had a half dozen stools at the counter, NASCAR on the wide screen TV, a half dozen scattered tables for 4 or 6 each, and a variety of beer and wine. (I had the house Merlot and it was also quite good. The waitress didn’t know who made it and said the ‘wine guy’ was out right then. But the Wine Guy knows his stuff. I suspect a local vineyard of the California Central Coast. Not your typical ‘jug red’ at all.

So from the “you can’t judge a cook by his tats” department, if you do the missions tour, this is a very pleasant watering hole and diner along the way. Cost was about $26 for two including tax and wine. Well worth it.

Along The Coast

We then drove to the coast and returned home on Highway One via Carmel. I’ll cover Carmel in another posting, but here are a couple of pictures of the coast. Imagine you have been at the mission for weeks in the sweltering inland heat (up to 110 F in the shade) and have spent all day on the back of a donkey traversing brown dry ground, stopping under the occasional oak tree. Then you begin to feel cool ocean air and a faint scent of salt mist…

As you approach the coast of California

As you approach the coast of California

And reach the shore. Where you can remember the wooden ships that brought you from half a world away.

Pacific Ocean Coastal Rocks and Kelp Beds

Pacific Ocean Coastal Rocks and Kelp Beds

Eventually returning to the Regional Capital at Monterey and to the headquarters mission at Carmel. Finishing with a fine dinner with the Governor and perhaps a ship Captain, bringing news of home. Local abalone, muscles, and rock fish, perhaps oysters and a leg of lamb. Roast ears of corn, a bit foreign then, and squash with American beans (also both a bit new to the Spanish). And finished with some talk by the fireplace with some mission grape wine or a dash of Porto from the Old Country…

I still wonder how Spain could have let it all go. Had they kept Mexico and the rest of their colonies they would be the world dominating superpower of today. But in the moment of this story, they were one of those superpowers. And this was their outpost on the edge of the world.

Mission at Carmel

Mission at Carmel

More California Coastline

California Coastline with Lighthouse

California Coastline with Lighthouse

I love the pastel effects in that one. No Photoshop involved.

Then there is that odd contrast we get with dry land grasses down to a rocky shore, then the odd bit of beach …

California Coastal Cliff

California Coastal Cliff

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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19 Responses to Missions – San Miguel (and other bits)

  1. Nick Temple says:

    Out past San Miguel is San Antonio, also a working Mission, but more of a retreat center. It is my favorite because of the setting, there is not much around it besides Ft. Hunter Ligget.

  2. P.G. Sharrow says:

    E.M.; Nice pictures of mission cooking facilities. And my wife complains about our crappy little kitchen ( it is ;-) ) Poor damn craftsman that blames the outcome on his tools. I’ve cooked on every thing from a campfire to a nice gas range. A good cook can get good results with what ever is available, both in food and facilities. A poor cook can burn water and make garbage.

    Today I am having fun picking California black berries. They are especially good this year. 8-) Not a job for the faint of heart or thin of skin. I smell a cobbler that needs to be made, and some wine based blackberry brandy in the very near future. pg

  3. Verity Jones says:

    Lovely photos yet again – all of them are interesting for different reasons. Thanks for sharing them.

    Best steak I ever had was in a little place with plastic tablecovers on an Indian reservation in South Dakota ten years ago. Again, little choice but if there had been we’d have missed a real treat.

    @P.G. Sharrow – blackberries in my sights too but we need a week or so of warm sun to ripen them. Northern UK has been cool this summer and I’d say they’re about two weeks later than normal. Used up the last pot of jam from two years ago in May.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Nick Temple:

    I had posted a couple of pictures of it under this posting:


    which was more oriented toward resources than just glorying in the mission itself. It was on the way from San Antonio de Padua to San Miguel that we ran into the roadside diner noted above.

    I’m of the opinion that San Antonio is one of the best (so far… we’re only down to San Luis Obispo … ) if not the best. It’s the isolated ambiance of it that gives you a feel for what it was really like. And yes, it is surrounded by Fort Hunter Ligget so it will always stay that way…


    How does one make ‘wine based brandy’ ? It sounds like fun…

    Grew up picking California blackberries. Often from the water. they grew along the banks of the rivers we swam in and from time to time you would (if VERY adventuresome) swim up to the mass of vines and pick a berry or two. Having longer arms than most helps ;-)

    @V.Jones: Thanks! While I’d like to credit the 50 years of experience (got the first camera as a kid one Christmas. A Kodak something or other that took 126 sized film IIRC) and the two dozen cameras I’ve got (a few Minoltas, a few Cannons, the Nikon used for these pictures along with a couple of spare film bodies) I think the reality is more mundane. I learned to edit better.

    Both in the camera and after. Learned to ‘wait for the shot’. For people to leave or the sun to move, or have me move to edit out a distraction in the camera. The digital Nikon does help in that I know if the shot worked or not. I can adjust white balance, or exposure, or… and do it over. If I shoot film again, I’ll use the digital to ‘pre-test’ the shot and then set up the film camera. In the “Rock bell tower” above, the first shot I lined up had an overhead wire running across the structure. Didn’t notice it until doing the ‘in camera edit’. So then I moved off to the right and closer with the lens widened out and got a cleaner shot, but not from the angle I preferred. Still, better without the wire. (But I’d love to take the wire down and do a non-zoom straight shot with a view camera to keep the sides straight… but then I’d need to buy a view camera and those guys are pricey… )

    Partly it IS the equipment. I’ve got a set of 4 lenses for the Nikon that range from 18 mm to 300 mm focal length and includes a 50 mm f 1.4 for truly low light situations. (Though my Canon has an f 1.2 that is great for getting the background fuzzy with a very shallow depth of field. I miss that lens… Still have it, but don’t shoot film much any more, so it is left unused.) 2 of the lenses are the DX type (‘digital’ only) and are zooms from 18 – 200 mm all told. They only cover the APS sized sensor in the camera. Three are 35 mm types including a 35-85 mm zoom and a 100-300 mm zoom. On the APS sized sensor of the camera, that 300 mm works like a 400 mm, and since I’m only using the sweet spot in the middle of the lens, it has great ‘corner sharpness’ with those lenses.

    I got the two 35 mm zooms via buying a chemical body Nikon from a guy who had ‘gone digital’ and now didn’t want the old body, but had duplicate ‘lighter weight lenses’ now. Didn’t explain to him why the old glass would be a feature ;-) and got a heck of a deal. So I have a ‘backup’ film body AND some really nice lenses. Bought the 50 mm f1.4 new. I like doing ‘available darkness’ photography and just MUST have at least one Damn Fast Lens in the bag.

    At Carmel, I took about 200 photos. Somewhere over 175, anyway. So there is a lot of edit as to what makes the page here. the one up top was done through the main gate AFTER closing. Thus no people in the picture. It helps to wait and wait and wait and…

    The major “issue” I have is that the very wide angle lens has a tendency to non-parallel verticals with buildings. It’s hard to get everything to ‘work’ in a rectangular frame with non-parallel parallel walls 8-}

    That, and most folks don’t share my interest in ‘textures’ so the close up photos of adobe brick or peeling paint get left for me alone… And the photos of architectural details like how the beams join the walls or how footer wood is used under a vertical post to mate it to a horizontal beam. Few folks care for those, being documentary technical. The ‘rock stairs’ above is an example of both texture and architectural detail. Having both, I think it works more generally (but still needs the lead in of the bell ‘tower’ shot). And I’ve got a few ‘artsy’ shots of flowers and plants. May put one or two of those up to see if folks like them… Carmel has stellar gardens.

    As you can see above, my interest in food and cooking drew me to the kitchens. I’ve also got pictures of how they made beds and how to build a fireplace into an adobe wall and other details. I could fill up the whole space allotment on worldpress with just the mission pictures. Maybe I ought to find out what photo online places let you keep pictures up forever for free ;-)

    But then I’d not be editing as much as needed :-^)

    I just glad folks like the pictures.

  5. boballab says:


    I know what you mean about how the new digital equipment and computer editing software makes it so much easier to get very good shots. The only thing they can’t do is give patience which imo is the most important thing aboout getting a great shot. Sometimes you just have to wait.

    however speaking of the equipment I just posted some of the pictures from Yellowstone (really the town of West Yellowstone and the animals in the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center).

    I’m going to have to break the postings up by days of the trip since there is just too much to cover in one post. We deliberately went not just on the main loop roads of the park but drove out each one of entrance roads which reach over 20 miles in lenght in some cases. The terrain also changes and with that the wildlife, the Southwest corner of the park is nothing like the Northeast corner of the park. Even the weather varies across it, one day it was warm and sunny in one part of the park while on the other side cold and rainy. The mountains in the middle of the park blocked the weather system and caused this.

    If you want to check out those pictures I took with a $110 digital camera here is the link:

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    What camera? I got a Panasonic with very long zoom range for my daughter and she loves it. Does very well. Think it was about $200 but that was a couple of years ago.

    The little digitals all tend to have a small sensor. The physics of this is a very large depth of field, so you get shots that are fairly crisp front to rear. The downside of that is it’s very hard to have shallow depth of field to isolate an object from the background. There are times I’ve thought of getting one of the smaller pocketable cameras so that I could ditch the camera bag more often AND for the enhanced depth of field. One of them and a mini-tripod gives a pretty good setup for all sorts of shots.

  7. boballab says:

    Kodak Easyshare Z915 which I got on sale for $110 at my local Staples (which is now listed for $199 now by them) but Kodak is selling them online themselves for $129.95

    basic specs:

    10X optical zoom with image stabilization

    •The all glass 10X optical zoom lens (35–350 mm) zooms in fast to deliver extraordinary creative performance
    •Fast f/3.5–f/4.8

    Optical image stabilization

    •Capture sharp, steady shots when shooting at long zoom ranges
    •Optical image stabilization automatically minimizes camera shake to deliver sharper pictures

    Amazing quality prints with 10 MP

    •10 MP means you can make stunning prints up to 30 × 40 in.
    •More megapixels means you can crop and enlarge and still have great picture quality
    •However you choose to print—at home, at retail, or online—trust KODAK for picture quality that’s truly exceptional and for memories that will last

    Best-in-class[1]click to capture speed

    < 0.3 second click-to-capture speed means you can capture that challenging action shot without delay

    Was able to take great scenery shots with this camera while the car was doing 70mph.

    The other big thing I love about this camera is the Kodak Smart Capture system (which those pictures I took were based on). You set the zoom and aim, the camera automatically adjusts to focus on the main image. You will see aiming boxes popup on the view screen showing you what will be focused on. Think of the “Terminator” focusing eyes but with out the crosshairs. Most of the time you don’t even need to take it off auto it works that good, just for some very specialized shots (like through glass and low light conditions, but they have a museum mode for that). Here is a link to their demo page on it:

    Here is the link to its page on the kodak store:

    oh btw it also does Panorama shots and automatically stitchs up to three shots together

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve added a few more photos up top. Some more coastline and the courtyard.

    The panorama feature would be good for me. I regularly do a panorama, but don’t get the auto-stitch…

  9. boballab says:

    If you want to see how the stitch comes out I have an example of a 2 shot stitch here:

    and a three shot stitch here:

    On the panaroma pictures after you take the first shot, the camera will take about 1/5th of the right edge of that and ghost image it on the left side of the screen so that you can use that to line up the next shot. On that 3 shot stitch I missed the alignment between the first and second shot. You can see the same V shape on the mountain sitting next to each other. However I nailed the next stitch and you can see the two shot came out perfect.

  10. Chuckles says:

    Nice pics E.M., I think we belong to the same school of photography. LLove the textures and the details. I presume these are all missions along El Camino Bignum?

    The iron bars in the barbecue are interesting as there is a school of bbq design that says that they conduct the heat out of fat smoke fast enough to prevent undue flaming and fires, and ‘enhance your overall food preparation experience’.

    I found it quite difficult to get used to the ‘multiplier’ effect when using Nikon 35mm lenses on the digital bodies. I would pick a lens expecting a particular ‘framing’ and just not get the effect I wanted. A lot of very ‘flat’ images as well, with the depth of field all wrong.
    I found the opposite effect with the 10mm they brought out at the time of the D1 and D2. It’s field of view was wider than the human eye, so looking through the viewfinder was quite unnerving.

    I used some very good free panorama stitching software some years back, I’ll have to dig around and find the name. We were stitching together video framegrabs, and it was quite happily stitching 50-100 images.

  11. j ferguson says:

    E.M. and all,
    What a timely discussion. SWMBO and I are spending 3 weeks in France in September, a sort of survey trip to see if our scheme to buy a canal boat in the north and summer there, winter in the keys is not insane. Well maybe it is insane in any case, but will it be fun? Not owning a house makes such a thing possible, for us, at least.

    Present camera is digital Canon S10 which has a view-finder. My eyes are very bad, but the viewfinder works for me and looking at the little lcd doesn’t. I bought it when I worked in Ireland and have loved it in every regard but resolution – 2 mp.

    It appears that Canon still markets a digital with a viewfinder but it’s pricey.

    I’ve been thinking of the Pentax K-X digital reflex which among other things comes in a variety of colors. The red or white one really appeals to me.

    Pentax also uses AA batteries. S10 uses odd battery that’s not available everywhere – we have rechargeable for it but…

    I’ll look into the kodak recommended above. Maybe I can find a way to work with the lcd.

    The inevitable story:

    I knew Chicago Tribune photographer in late ’60s (?). The paper bought their equipment; Canon F-1 series. His were painted bright blue (canoe), by him and messily too. He said that when he was done with camera it was shot, so resale wasn’t really an issue but theft was. You could leave one of his cameras on a park bench all afternoon and it would still be there when you returned for it.

    Stitching: Canon S10 came with stitching software which works quite well. We went to Connemara. It likely is in my genes, 3/4 +/- Scottish. I was entranced by the beauty of the place.

    Stitched 180 degree panoramas really convey the sense of it.

    E.M., don’t hesitate to share interesting architectural details with us.

  12. pyromancer76 says:

    Interesting read — missions, textures, unique dining experiences on the road, photo techniques, and camera technology all in one post. Not very knowledgeable in the last two, but enjoy reading the experiences of those who are. Photos give the flavor of the visit.

    Regarding: “I still wonder how Spain could have let it all go. Had they kept Mexico and the rest of their colonies they would be the world dominating superpower of today.” In my understanding of history (always somewhat subjective, but inclusive of all available data), Spain lost some naval battles, and, more importantly, Spaniards were top-down people, including those who built the mission system. I believe they “enslaved” the locals to do their work. When people risk everything to immigrate, imagine the development, and do much of the work themselves (something like budding democracy), the success rate was much greater, I believe. I wish more of that same spirit was alive today.

    A question. How did Mission San Miguel miss earthquake damage? Fortunate placement? That magnificent side wall, the stairway and bell tower, made with local rocks seems to be especially vulnerable, unless these mission builders had some unusual technology.

  13. GregO says:


    Thanks for sharing your vacation.

    Love the pictures – especially the shots of the stone construction. Many moons ago I worked at brick-block-and concrete construction and kept the habit for home and buddy projects and I have (attempted) to build things from that California river-rock and I can tell you it takes a master craftsman (not a hack like me) to build a simple wall or pilaster from rounded-off rocks.

    Building a Mission with a bell-tower and stairs from river-rock??? OMG! Requires an absolute master to pull it off; and how long has that structure been standing? Just breathtakingly beautiful work and craftsmanship.

    Also really enjoyed your photo of the wall and entry portal to the Mission.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    Looks like the “stitch” does a pretty good job. I couldn’t figure out where the join was from a casual look.

    Yes on the El Camino question. We started at Mission Santa Clara and worked our way up the peninsula to Sonoma (where the republic was founded) then down El Camino Real until we got tired of driving. We’ll pick up the next batch on a trip to L.A. sometime.

    I now have a x 1.5 factor built into my brain for the digital. See 18 mm, then think 27… (or more properly, it’s a “add 1/2” process) 50 mm? Think 50+25 so 75 mm… Want a 150? Grab a 100…

    Per missions and quakes: Most of the missions have had significant damage (some to the point of destruction) and have been restored or rebuilt. And it’s usually not the quakes that did them in. Most common was during a period of abandonment folks would take the fired tiles off the roof. Then the adobe just dissolves away in the rains. Occasionally it was fire. One went down to a flood (and has been recreated / restored). And many were simply used as stables or barns and not maintained.

    For San Miquel in particular, from our Missions book:

    One of four missions founded in 1797 by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, […] The first church was replaced within a year of the missions founding to accommodate the growing neophyte population, which topped 1000 in 1805 and by 1814, the mission’s apex, included 1,076 souls. […] The healthy neophyte population, with the assistance of neighboring missions, helped San Miquel recover from a devastating fire in 1906. […] Witin a year the mission was operating smoothly again, the center of a vast network of ranchos and outposts [that streched to San Simeon and 66 miles inland]. San Miquel’s final church, the one that stands today, was built between 1816 and 1818. The huge ediface – 144 feet long, 27 feet wide, and 40 feet high, supported by walls 6 feet thick – was raised in that astonishingly short amount of time [ because after the fire they had been making thousands of adobe bricks]. In 1836, in accordance with Mexico’s secularization order, the Franciscans were dispatched from mission control and a secular administrator was installed. The last mission to be secularized, Sam Miguel declined swiftly. By 1841 a scant 30 neophytes remained, along with a lone padre, Ramon Abella, who diedin that year. [list of other padres] And finally, in 1846, the mission and it’s properties were put up for sale by Mexican governor Pio Pico, and purchased by Petronilo Rios and William Reed. The price was $600.

    It was during that ‘secularization’ (that really amounted to the theft of the properties and sale to friends of the government) that most of the missions got abused into ruins. Pio Pico was an agent of horrible destruction, IMHO.

    The mission’s history gre both tragic and bawdy after its sale. William Reed and his family, who’d take up residence at the mission, were murdered by a gang of miscreants who’d come to California in search of gold; the murderers where then hunted down by a posse and executed in Santa Barbara. In subsequent years the site was used as a saloon, a dance hall, and a warehouse. Though it passed back into the ownership of the Catholic Church in 1859, the mission wasn’t assigned a priest until 1878.

    After a long hiatus, Mission San Miguel was placed back into the hands of the Franciscans in 1928. Under the restrained and respectful watch of the order that founded it, the mission has seen preservation and restoration efforts that haven’t altered it’s historical beauty or power.

    OK, the key thing here is that when it was sold off in “secularization” it become someones home. Other missions were treated as outbuildings and not maintained. If you don’t keep the plaster patched and the roof in shape, adobe just melts in the rain… Then after the family was gone, it was “useful” so ‘kept up’.

    Per surviving quakes. IMHO it’s the 6 foot thick walls. The darned thing just sits still in a quake and the dirt under the foundation takes all the movement. Maybe it would settle a bit (but with that many tons on top, it’s probably already pretty well settled…). Some have come down in quakes, but not this one. Though it did get some damage.

    Per the wiki we have:

    For many years, the Mission served the town as an active parish church of the Diocese of Monterey. Unfortunately, harmonic vibrations from the nearby Union Pacific Railroad main line has weakened the unreinforced masonry structures over the years. The San Simeon Earthquake of December 22, 2003 caused severe damage to the sanctuary at Mission San Miguel. The Catholic Church considered closing the parish due to the extensive damage and the estimated $15 million cost of repairs.[13][14] Work has since been completed and the Mission reopened on September 29, 2009.

    I’m not sure exactly which building is ‘the sanctuary’, but this is fairly typical of mission history. Quake happens. Stuff has problems. It either gets abandoned (in prior times) or fixed (now). That the fresco’s inside are original implies to me that the damage was not dramatic (just expensive…)

    The Mission Santa Clara came through the 7.2 Loma Prieta quake just fine too. Something about 6 foot thick walls that gives them a bit of stiffness and strength 8-)

    (I really do think that the ground under them is the weakest point, so it just wobbles like a bit of rubber under the structure that’s too massive to move. Basically, the world wobbles around the church, and it does not take note… )

    Per “enslavement”: It’s a mite hard to enslave folks who can just go live off the land. There were abusive padres and there were good padres, but most of the Indians were volunteers (at least some or a lot of the time). Regular food and you didn’t need to migrate from mountains to shore and back each year. Raising cattle was easier than hunting deer with a small bow and arrow.

    I’ve been told that the Mission at Santa Barbara has a hidden room that was built to hide runaway indians. Don’t know the whole story, but it sounds to me like the Padres were not the ones doing the enslaving… I’ll know more after we get to that one.

    @J Ferguson:

    Hit Craigs List. You can find lots of nice digital SLRs with viewfinder for cheap. My Nikon is now on the ‘cheap’ list as it is “only 6 Megapixel”. About $350. Other makes can be even cheaper. The 10, 12, and even 25+ Megapixel SLRs are shipping and folks with Pixel Envy are dumping their little ones to get a bigger one… I think I saw a Cannon for about $285. Sony Alpha, that uses Minolta Maxxum lenses, about the same. Of course, the “point and shoot’ digitals are proportionately cheaper…


    has my Nikon D50 listed for $250. Sony Cybershot 10 MPixel for $90.

    And since several of you seem to like odd bits of architecture I’ll put some of those bits up too.

    The bulk of the mission is adobe brick. Only that bell tower is rounded river rock. The foundation of other parts is slab rock of some kind (hard to see the foundations under all that adobe ;-)

    The structure looks to me to be circa 1820, but it’s hard to say. It looked very old and was integrated with the buildings at the rear of the main hall. Looked like it was ‘original’.

    And yes, the more I look at what these folks did with so little, the more I realize how much we have forgotten. Work with rock your whole life, learning form masters who have preserved The Craft for thousands of years, yeah, they “knew something”…

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    A bit further down, where I’d not read before, we have:

    A three bell campanario rises from the rear of the church near the back of the graveyard, a narrow stone staircase climbing to a platform from which the bells could be rung. One of the bells, cast in San Francisco in 1888, weighs 2,000 pounds, according to mission literature. The stone-and-brick foundations of the bell tower are adobe-free and of a startling textural beauty.

    From: “California’s Missions and Presidios – A Guide to Exploring California’s Spanish and Mexican Legacy” A Falcon Guide, by Tracy Salcedo Chourre.

    So it looks like someone else likes textures too 8-) The date of casting of the bell make it likely that was the time the bell tower was being built (unless it was a replacement, which seems unlikely). So it looks like this part may have been added “only” 120 years ago.

  16. Adam Gallon says:

    Great set of holiday pictures! The mission interiors remind me somewhat of the Catholic churches in Austria, that I visited during holidays as a child. The contrast with the Protestant chapels was amazing.
    On your French trip, visit their great cathedrals, the interior of Chartre almost had me sign up as a believer.
    (Stained glass window picture here http://www.facebook.com/adam.gallon#!/photo.php?pid=1674846&id=697708983&ref=fbx_album )
    Bayeaux’s is worth a look too, but beware how much noise a velcro fastening on your camera bag can make!

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Adam Gallon: Glad you liked them. I would expect a great deal of commonality globally. Each mission, for example, has pictures of the Stations of the Cross on the walls. It’s a standard feature. The particular art varies quite a bit (in style and quality) but the pattern is standard. Similarly the altar layout is fairly fixed and the “decoration” is to illustrate a biblical story (often related to the particular ‘namesake’ of the mission… so Saint Michael is depicted in Mission San Miquel.)

    So the materials will change with local availability, but the overall theme is held constant. The individual “storyboard” changes, but the “visual communications of the Bible” stays the same. The individual design changes, but the “uplifting environment” goal stays the same. I’ve got pictures from Carmel (in ‘edit’) including the small chapel where Mass is held week days. Same layout. Complete with organ in the back…

  18. Verity Jones says:

    Sigh. I must get a better digital camera. I have a Kodacshare too, but a 110. It serves me well since I haven’t been able to fix the battery compartment of my Canon SLR (which our daughter managed to open as a 2 year old and snapped the lid of the compartment right off – even duct tape doesn’t provide sufficient pressure to keep the battery on the contacts).

    More likely to take the little Kodac with me places, but I miss lenses and in particular the macro lens. I like textures too – and colours – I have an amazing set of close ups of lichen somewhere in a box of prints. I was looking earlier at La Segrada Familia in Barcelona –
    I used pillars for support when the light was a bit low.

    Good idea about looking for a second hand camera. I hadn’t thought of the opportunity afforded by pixel-envy.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    Craigslist has a UK site:


    Prices look a bit high to me, but what do I know… You can probably get the broken one fixed pretty cheap as it’s just a plastic parts change (one can hope…)

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