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Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo, also known as the Carmel
Mission, is a Roman Catholic mission church in Carmel, California. It
is on the National Register of Historic Places and a U.S. National
It was the headquarters of the original upper Las Californias Province missions headed by Father Junípero Serra from 1770 until his death in 1784.
The mission also was the seat of the padre presidente, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. It was destroyed in the mid-19th century, only to be restored beginning in 1884. It remains a parish church today. It is the only one to have its original bell tower dome.
The mission, first established on June 3, 1770, in nearby Monterey,
(near the native village of Tamo), was named for Charles Borromeo,
Archbishop of Milan, Italy. It was the site of the first Christian
confirmation in Alta California. In May, 1771, the viceroy approved
Serra's petition to relocate the mission to its current location near
the present-day town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Serra's goal was to put
some distance between the mission's neophytes and the Presidio of
Monterey, (the headquarters of Pedro Fages, who served as military
governor of Alta California between 1770 and 1774, with whom Serra was
engaged in a heated power struggle). The original site continued to
operate as the "Royal Presidio Chapel" and later became the
Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo. "Mission Carmel" (as it
came to be known) was Serra's favorite and, being close to Monterey
(the capital of Alta California), served as his headquarters. When he
died on August 28, 1784, he was interred beneath the chapel floor.
The Esselen and Ohlone Indians who lived near the mission were taken in and trained as plowmen, shepherds, cattle herders, blacksmiths, and carpenters. They made adobe bricks, roof tiles and tools needed to build the mission. In the beginning, the mission relied on bear meat from Mission San Antonio de Padua and supplies brought by ship from Mission San Diego de Alcalá. In 1794, the population reached its peak of 927, but by 1823 the total had dwindled to 381. On November 20, 1818, French privateer Hipólito Bouchard raided the Monterey Presidio, before moving on to other Spanish installations in the south. The mission was in ruins when the Roman Catholic Church regained control of it in 1863. In 1884 Father Angel Casanova undertook the work of restoration. In 1931, Monsignor Philip Scher appointed Harry Downie to be curator in charge of mission restoration; it became an independent parish two years later. In 1961, the mission was designated as a minor basilica by Pope John XXIII. In 1987, Pope John Paul II visited the mission as part of his U.S. tour. As a result, of his dedication, the Carmel mission church is one of the most authentically restored of all the mission churches in California.