31 January 2012

Mission Style Circa 1790 in California

My daughter Lisa  made a goal to visit all of the twenty-one 18th C. missions that were built "a day's journey by horseback" (or about 30 miles apart) up and down the coast of California. On a recent gorgeous Sunday we had the chance to visit Mission San Miguel Arcangel in the central coast. As a designer who loves color, crumbling & derivative architecture, decorative painting on walls, history and celebration, I found it a stunning place to spend an hour or so. 

a portrait of the patron saint Michael the Archangel
hangs on the frescoed walls of the long, narrow
church; the walls are the original decorative
paintings by Esteban Munras from the 1820's

the front entry of the church is simple and austere with
a large carved and painted wooden door and quatrefoil windows

one of the buttresses on the side of the long, narrow church have
helped support it through earthquakes and the harmonic
vibrations from the nearby Union Pacific Railway railroad

one of the gateposts from the original enclosure
of the mission grounds stands proudly today
in the California sunshine

another massive carved and painted door
with a heavy oak lintel opens onto
the mission arcade

another original gate onto the enclosure that
housed and protected early missionaries

the stunning altar and surround are heavily
decorated by Estaban Munras in 1820 in
the Neo Classical excesses he had seen in the
magnificent churches in Mexico at the time; it remains 

today exactly as he finished it

this energizing burst appears on the left side
of the church alongside the classically
referenced blue painted columns

the entry to one of the carpentry areas is a
brilliantly orange painted arch with stylized flowers;
the dado wall with the border of red flowers
continues the length of the colonnade

closeup of the decorative painting
dating from 1820

a display of the implements and tools used
in the contraction of the 1797
Mission San Miguel Arcangel


Franciscan missionaries in the late 18th Century California

by 1820, a total of twenty-one missions had
been established along the California
coast by the Franciscans; while they
are all existing today, Mission
San Miguel featured here has
the most preserved interior
and decorative elements of
all the missions

a photo taken in 1920 shows the details characteristic of the California
Misison style: colonnade of Roman arches, white unadorned exterior,
clay tile roofs, deep overhang... these architectural elements
are widely used in buildings in California today

above old photos of
Mission San Miguel are


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  1. Dear Kit ..... this is fascinating! 18th century mission style in California.... it is so beautiful and I especially love the first lone gatepost that still stands there so proudly!!! Simply beautiful .... it must have been so special and entrancing to see it all ...
    Frannie xxxxx

    1. HI Frannie! thanks for visiting..(trying out this new feature in blogger), you are the first! Don't you love the colors used in the mission interior too? over the top, my pictures don't even do it justice!xx Kit

  2. Thank you for sharing the history and the beauty.

  3. This was such an interesting post to read. The pictures show such a beautiful part of the church's history. I would love to visit there. What a great idea your daughter had!

  4. One of the highlights of my trip to California was visiting the mission in Santa Barbara - set high up in the hills with a cool garden to rest in, it is a lovely place. I'm sure Lisa is enjoying her visits just as much.

  5. What a fabulous goal . I love these antique missions

  6. I have never been to one dahhling so I very much enjoyed the tour!

  7. Like ur blogg :)


  8. Wonderful - colour, form and history. Thank you from Australia.

  9. Wow! What can I say? Those are really interesting design photos there! What a great way to spark up inspiration. Thanks!

  10. What a lovely blog you have here! I will definitely return! :)

  11. I just found your blog. And coincidentally my daughter just did her mission project on this particular mission. She will be excited to see your post as well.


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