Californian Mission: San Carlos Borroméo (2)

Continuing on from my previous post about my obsession with California’s Missions (read about the first one for background information) the next mission to be founded was on the outskirts of Carmel, 5 miles south of Monterey. I first saw this mission on my PCH trip, but unfortunately arrived there too late to go inside the grounds. On my next visit to California we were staying in Santa Clara and I took the opportunity to drive back to Carmel and visit this lovely Mission. It is considered to be the loveliest mission in the chain of nine missions that stretches along California’s Central Coast.

(click on an image to enlarge and for more information)

Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Rio Carmelo is more popularly known as Carmel Mission. It was founded on June 3, 1770 and was the second mission founded by Junipero Serra and was the headquarters of the Alta California missions until his death in 1784. Set close to the sea and mountains south of San Francisco this delightful mission is built in the typical quadrangle courtyard architecture which is quite Moorish in design and the façade has a star-shaped window directly above the main entrance.  The mission was abandoned and in ruins by the mid-1900s. Restoration began in the 20th century. It is a National Historic Landmark, and its basilica is still an active Catholic church.

Small Courtyard
Small Courtyard

But it is the gardens which have drawn me here, they include culinary and medicinal herbs, Mexican sage, citrus and olive trees, roses, bougainvillea and the graceful tall stalks of Echiums festooned with violet-blue, funnel-shaped flowers. .  The small courtyard you first enter into is exquisite with flowers, bubbling fountains, statues and the Basilica facing you popular with artists who set up their easels and attempt to capture this beauty.  The profusion of flowers against the old stonework, or background of white-washed adobe walls and the variety of species and colours are spectacular. Drought-resistant plants are used throughout creating dramatic visual spaces with texture and colour. Even the graves in the small graveyard are adorned with abalone shells.

One thing I like about all the Missions is the spiritual beauty and tranquillity of the space. This complex holds five museums including the Basilica church, which show the history of this important Californian site.


I would recommend anyone who is interested in historical sites or beautiful gardens to see this place. It was a great experience.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

17 thoughts on “Californian Mission: San Carlos Borroméo (2)”

  1. What a beautiful and peaceful looking place, Jude. The only CA mission I have visited Is Mission San Juan Capistrano. My son’s then fiancee was a docent there. It was an unforgettable visit, but long before I started blogging, and I have hardly any photos. 😦

  2. Another good set Jude, especially the lovely flowers. I can see why the artist has set his easel there, what a lovely spot.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. I was very disappointed on my first visit that we were too late to enter the complex, so I had to return. So glad I did, it is a beautiful, peaceful place.

  3. All these photos are wonderful Jude but I especially like the small courtyard with the echiums in the foreground. Oh, and the statue of the baby in the angel wings… and the aloes… 😉

  4. It’s wonderful that the missions have been restored, Jude. Love this garden. The sleeping baby and angel face statues are so appealing. A bench and a book place, but I’d never get to read the book 🙂

  5. I can’t believe that in all the years when I lived in California we didn’t visit this Mission! Caught up in young family life and so many other things to get done I suppose. Sigh. We visited Carmel and Monterey quite often though (love Monterey Bay Aquarium) both beautiful places.

    The one mission which sticks out in my mind the most is Mission San Antonio de Padua because that is the one my daughter wrote her 4th grade mission report about. It wasn’t too far from us so made it easier to pay a few visits for photos and information. One of these days I might find the photos, yet more hidden away in a box somewhere.

    Beautiful photos Jude, a real treat. xx

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Sherri. A shame you missed out, but I bet you had some good times in California. At least you had the weather there for exploring!

      1. That’s true! Although sometimes it was so hot that we had to keep inside for the best part of the day. For the first 8 years or so though we lived by the bay so it was much more temperate and made for some lovely days out, yes certainly 🙂

        1. I missed the seasons terribly. I loved living in California for many reasons but I was very homesick for England and my family here so I’m glad to be back 🙂

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