Originally founded on the shores of Monterey Bay, Mission San Carlos Borromeo was first established near the Presidio. Unhappy with its location, Fray Junipero Serra relocated the mission amid the inspiring California landscape near Carmel. A wooden cross was erected on August 4, 1771 and construction began. By 1773 five other missions had been built. The mission today is on the National Register of Historic places to visit.
Story Feature from Seek a Safe Harbor
From the coast they turned northeast to a road along the Carmel River. Anna was eager to see the mission. It should be imposing. Monterey was the capital of Alta California and Mission San Carlos de Borromeo was the headquarters for Fray Serra, the President of all the missions.
When the coach rattled into a cobble-stoned quadrangle, the rosy glow from a vanished sun still washed the sky. Anna saw small buildings made of adobe. None of the glory of Spanish stone construction.
“I expected a stone church.”
“These friars are Alcantarines, a reformed order of Franciscans who keep to strict vows of poverty. One day they may build a fine mission to God’s glory, but for now they live as their converts do.”
An immense wooden cross towered near the church. It was not the familiar Roman cross of Anna’s crucifix. This one had two crossbars, one atop the upright.
“An unusual cross, Sebastiano.”
“Fray Serra told us its story. Shaped like a Greek T. Saint Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan founder, claimed it as his crest. A picture of Christ, he said, its arms outstretched to embrace the leper and the outcast.”
Serra Cross or Tau Cross: In the museum tourists can see fragments of the original cross erected by Fray Serra. A replica of the cross stands in the mission’s quadrangle where the original cross once stood.
Watercolor Painting. Oriana Day painting of the mission as it looked in 1793, courtesy David J. McLaughlin and California Mission Center.