Carmel Mission Foundation
Carmel Mission Foundation


Looking to establish a port on the Pacific coast to facilitate their world-trading route, Spain began colonization efforts in the territory in 1769 with the expedition of Gaspar de Portola. The Carmel Mission was subsequently founded at its present location in 1771 by Father Junípero Serra. It was the second mission established in the territory called Alta California and was Serra’s headquarters for the California mission system. From here, personnel and supplies would be sent throughout Alta California to establish a chain of 21 missions to begin colonization of the territory.

In 1821, Mexico (New Spain), also a colony of Spain, ceded from Spain, and Alta California became a part of Mexico. In 1834, Mexico secularized the Missions and distributed the land to persons of importance or favor within the new government. The pueblo system then became the means of continuing colonial development. The U.S. government defeated Mexico at Monterey in 1846, and laid claim to Alta California. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) officially gave the territory to the U.S. In 1849, a Constitutional Convention was held in Monterey and the boundaries of California were established. The state of California entered the union as a free state in 1850. The Mission lands were returned to the Church by the U.S. Government in 1859. However, by 1850, the Carmel Mission was facing physical ruin. The stone church was deteriorating and most of the adobe buildings were disappearing. The roof collapsed in 1852.

On August 28, 1883, in commemoration of the upcoming Centennial of Father Junípero Serra’s death (August 28, 1784), a proclamation went out to the people of California to restore the Carmel Mission. This proclamation was signed by over fifty state dignitaries including the Governor of California, mayors, judges, government officials, bankers, educators, and private citizens. In 1884, private funds put a roof back on the church structure preserving it until the 1930s when church and additional private funds became available to mount a full-scale renovation. This effort continued for over 50 years under the leadership of Harry Downie. In 1961 The Carmel Mission was designated a Basilica.

The Carmel Mission saw the beginning of its third “Springtime” in 2008, under the leadership of Fr. John Griffin. An historic structures study was commissioned, and the Carmel Mission Foundation was founded. After raising sufficient funds and establishing a project team, restoration work, which included a seismic retrofit, began on the Basilica in August of 2012. Work was completed in June of 2013, thus constituting completion of the first phase of the Mission’s third major restoration.

The first project in Phase II was the $2.0 million renovation of the Quadrangle Courtyard, completed in 2016. The old concrete surface, cracked and with many trip hazards, was removed. New subterranean utility infrastructure such as water and fire lines, drains, sewer, electrical, and communications was installed to support future restoration of the Mission’s historic structures surrounding the Courtyard. The Courtyard was then resurfaced with a stronger, safer, and similar looking hardscape designed to last for the next 75–100 years.

The next project will address the Mission’s museums, which include California’s oldest library. Planned are seismic retrofits, infrastructure upgrades, and facility and courtyard improvements for better visitor traffic flow. The goal is to enhance the museum experience by telling the story of the Carmel and Alta California Missions and their significant impact on California’s history, through improved museum displays, better descriptive information, and state-of-the-art technology.

The Carmel Mission Foundation continues the legacy of over 125 years of individual and community commitment to the historical restoration and preservation of the Carmel Mission.


Ronald Reagan was sworn in as Governor of California in January of 1967, using Junípero Serra’s 400 year-old Bible, brought with him from Spain. This Bible resides in the Carmel Mission Library, the oldest in library California.

The Carmel Mission Seal came from its livestock brand. The initials M and R stand for the Monterey. In December 1832, the padres reported the Mission had 2,100 cattle, 3,300 sheep, 410 horses, and 8 mules!




The Carmel Mission Foundation has prepared a presentation about the architectural history of the Carmel Mission from 1770 to present. This presentation has been given several times to local community organizations. If you would like to have a member of the Foundation make a presentation to your group, contact the Foundation office (831) 624-3261 for details.