Mission Nuestra Senora

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Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude)

A brief history

The Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad is the 13th mission founded in California. It was founded on October 9, 1791 by Friar Fermin Lasuen. Named for the one of the many designations of the Virgin Mary.

It is reported that when the Portola expedition arrived in 1769 in search of the port of Monterey they found a native who used the word “Soledad” or so it sounded. Two years later, Father Serra talked to a woman and upon asking her name she replied a word sounding like “Soledad.” From these chance occurrences, the location of the thirteenth Franciscan mission came to be known as Soledad which was incorporated into the name of the mission.

When Father Lasuen dedicated the mission in 1791 the solitude of the place was evident. The buildings were constructed slowly, in a year a temporary church as available but it took nearly six years before the large church was complete.

The mission did prosper though. The padres were able to irrigate fields from the Salinas River within nine years they had a native population of some 500 people. By 1820, the conversions numbered more than two thousand.

 In 1824, the river rose and destroyed the church, then again in 1828 to take out the chapel build to replace the church. Then in 1832 before the mission was reconstructed another flood arrived and the mission came to an end. A few years later secularization destroyed the rest.

In 1814, Governor Joes Joaquin de Arrillaga, the first Spanish governor of Alta California died while at Soledad. He was buried beneath the floor of the church and his grave was lost with the flood, only recently being discovered during excavations.

In 1954 the rubble was cleared away and restoration was begun. All that is left of the original structure is the front corner of the chapel.

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