The Famous Missions of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 58 pages of information about The Famous Missions of California.

The California missions, though greatly varying of course in regard to size and economy, were constructed upon the same general plan, in the striking and beautiful style of architecture, roughly known as Moorish, which the fathers transplanted from Spain, but which rather seems by reason of its singular appropriateness, a native growth of the new soil.  The edifices which now, whether in ruins or in restoration, still testify to the skill and energy of their pious designers, were in all cases later, in most cases much later, than the settlements themselves.  At the outset, a few rude buildings of wood or adobe were deemed sufficient for the temporary accommodation of priests and converts, and the celebration of religious services.  Then, little by little, substantial structures in brick or stone took the place of these, and what we now think of as the mission came into being.

The best account left us of the mission establishment in its palmy days is that given by De Mofras in his careful record of travel and exploration along the Pacific Coast; and often quoted as this has been, we still cannot do better here than to translate some portions of it anew.  The observant Frenchman wrote with his eye mainly upon what was perhaps the most completely typical of all the missions — that of San Luis Rey.  But his description, though containing a number of merely local particulars, was intended to be general; and for this reason may the more properly be reproduced in this place.

“The edifice,” he wrote, “is quadrilateral, and about one hundred and fifty metres long in front.  The church occupies one of the wings.  The façade is ornamented with a gallery [or arcade].  The building, a single storey in height, is generally raised some feet above the ground.  The interior forms a court, adorned with flowers and planted with trees.  Opening on the gallery which runs round it are the rooms of the monks, majordomos, and travelers, as well as the workshops, schoolrooms, and storehouses.  Hospitals for men and women are situated in the quietest parts of the mission, where also are placed the schoolrooms.  The young Indian girls occupy apartments called the monastery (el moujerìo), and they themselves are styled nuns (las moujas) . . .  Placed under the care of trustworthy Indian women, they are there taught to spin wool, flax, and cotton, and do no leave their seclusion till they are old enough to be married.  The Indian children attend the same school as the children of the white colonists.  A certain number of them, chosen from those who exhibit most intelligence, are taught music — plain-chant, violin, flute, horn, violincello, and other instruments.  Those who distinguish themselves in the carpenter’s shop, at the forge, or in the field, are termed alcaldes, or chiefs, and given charge of a band of workmen.  The management of each mission is composed of two monks; the elder looks after internal administration and religious instruction; the younger has direction

Project Gutenberg
The Famous Missions of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook