Cathedral San Carlos Borromeo

Cathedral San Carlos Borromeo

Monterey Mission Pixabay Public Domain

Also known as the Royal Presidio Cathedral, San Carlos Borromeo is the oldest continuously operated parish, as well as the oldest stone building, in California. Today, it is the only surviving presidio church in California, making it a historic landmark as well as a significant religious pilgrimage destination.

Founded in 1770 by St. Junipero Serra as Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, the church served as headquarters to the Alta California missions until the mission was moved away from the Presidio due to a power struggle with the Spanish military governor. Mission San Carlos was moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea which is where you'll find it today, while the Monterey mission was renamed San Jose Chapel. In 1777, the Presidio became the capital of the Provinces of California and thus the chapel was renamed once more the Royal Presidio Chapel. The current building is a reconstruction built in 1794 after the original was destroyed in a fire and in 1840, it was rededicated to Saint Charles Borromeo.

The beautiful church was built in the Spanish Colonial style with lovely stone carvings, arches, and spectacular dark wood finishings. Around the side of the cathedral is a stunning and peaceful garden containing a grotto shrine to the Virgin Mary as well as the Junipero Oak, a California landmark where St. Junipero Serra ceremonially took possession of the California provinces in the name of Spain.

Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, as an operating cathedral, welcomes visitors to attend Mass. You can also tour the church and grounds through the Heritage Center Museum and docent-led tours.