Mission San Miguel
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Mission San Miguel Arcangel (St. Michael the Archangel)A brief history
The Mission San Miguel Arcangel is the 16th mission founded in California. It was founded on July 25, 1797 by Friar Fermin Lasuen. Named for Saint Michael the Archangel, the chief of the archangels and the special protector against Satan’s attacks.
Mission San Miguel Arcángel was founded to fill the gap between San Antonio and San Luis Obispo. The mission was built in a valley near the Salinas and Nacimiento Rivers joined. The Native Americans were so amiable to this mission that a great number attended the first service and fifteen of the children were baptized. Building was started immediately and soon a church was completed and a small village grew around the mission.
A year later a larger one replaced the first church, both were mud-roofed and simple in construction. This church was lost 1806 when a fire destroyed many of the buildings. Included in the loss of the buildings were many of the supplies that the local native population relied on. Fortunately other nearby missions quickly donated many goods and within the year the mission was again busy. As a result of the fire, a new large church with tile-roof was planned. For years, the padres had the natives making adobe bricks in preparation of the building. Officially the new church was started in 1816, but because of the large amount of material prepared in advance, it was completed only two years later.
A friend of Father Martin, Artist Estevan Munras from Catalonia, Spain agreed to decorate the as a favor. He and some natives he trained decorated the bare walls of the church with intricate designs, which are still clear, and have not been retouched.
Originally Mission San Miguel controlled lands up and down the Salinas River for 50 miles, and operated a rancho at San Simeon, on the coast. In August of 1834 the mission was confiscated as per secularization and the property was dispersed to the natives. The mission itself remained active until 1846. Three days before the United States took over California, Governor Pico sold all of the mission except the church and priests quarters. One of the men who bought the property was William Reed. He occupied one wing as a personal residence for him and his family of three. In 1849, a party of men stopped at the mission on the way to the Gold Rush. They heard William Reed brag about his personal wealth that he supposedly had hidden on the property. They travelers then left but doubled back that evening. They killed Reed, his family and six servants. The tore up the place looking for treasure but found none. A posse caught them, killing one, another fell into the ocean where he drowned and the remaining three were taken to Santa Barbara where they were executed.
The mission later became a shopping center, including the most popular saloon on El Camino Real. In 1859 the mission properties were restored to the Church, but what was left of San Miguel, wasn’t restored until 1878. Some buildings were restored over the next ten years, and again in 1901. The Franciscans returned in 1928 and use it as a parish church and a monastery. Since that time an amazing recovery has been made, the years of neglect erased. The monastery building, with its colonnade of arches fronts the museum, and visitors can see the seismic cracking from the foundation to the roof, the water stains and cracks reach out to the only surviving original native and Spanish artwork still visible in the chain of missions.
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