Starting in 1769, Catholic missionary priests traveled west and established a string of successful churches in the Alta California region, bringing the Christian faith to the west coast. Counting 21 churches in all, these structures represent a combined effort and indelible faith in the Christian religion that carried men and women thousands of miles through frontier and untrekked territory for the glory of God.
San Diego de Alcala is the first of these missions to be built, established in 1769, and stands to this day as a beacon of faith. The other 20 missions along the 800 mile trail from San Diego to Sonoma stand in various conditions. Some have been restored to their original glory and maintain weekly mass while others are ruins and exist only as tour stops.
Mission San Juan Capistrano, located outside of Los Angeles, is often known as the “Jewel of the Missions.” It stands today as a museum and cultural center with community activities and tours of the Great Stone Church ruins which collapsed in a great earthquake in 1812. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is the second mission to be established in California in 1770 is one of the most visited of the missions for its beautiful setting and Spanish architecture.
Whether you are an adherent to the Catholic faith or you are simply interested in the architecture and history of the California missions, everyone can appreciate the pious dedication, perseverance, and strength that went into establishing such a large amount of churches in a short span of time. The religious ambition, faith, and spiritual strength is evident in every one of these churches that have succeeded in its purpose, remaining to this day as a spiritual beacon of Christianity.