MM 2-25 Missions in Monochrome — San Carlos Cathedral: The Mission that Never Was (a Mission)

For Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness 2-25 I have decided to submit another photo in the series I call Missions in Monochrome. This cathedral that we visited recently stands at the site where Father Junipero Serra said his first Mass at the Mission in Monterey he founded on June 3, 1770. But you won’t find this church in any official list of California Missions. It’s the Mission that never was.

San Carlos Cathedral, also known as the Royal Presidio Chapel

San Carlos Cathedral, also known as the Royal Presidio Chapel.

OK, here’s the story: Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish governor of Las Californias, led an expediton to Monterey in 1770 and established his military headquarters of Alta California there. Father Junipero Serra accompanied Portola and founded in Monterey the second of California’s 21 missions. Serra called it Mission San Carlos Borromeo. But he soon got into a dispute with Pedro Fages, the second and fifth governor of California, whose soldiers Serra claimed were abusing the Indians he was trying to convert and he decided to move his mission a few miles away from the soldiers to a bluff overlooking the mouth of the Carmel River. And there he built another church, also named after San Carlos Borromeo but more popularly known as Carmel Mission.The original Monterey church then became the San Jose Chapel for the Presidio of Monterey and was renamed the Royal Presidio Chapel in 1777 when Monterey became the capital of California but it burned down a few years later. In 1794 the church was rebuilt on the site where Serra said his first Mass and it became the official church of Spanish and then Mexican California. It was also the first building designed by an architect in California, the first building built of stone in California, and it is the oldest building still standing in California.

The sanctuary of San Carlos Cathedral.

The sanctuary of San Carlos Cathedral.

In 1849 the pope appointed Father Joseph Alemany the first bishop of the diocese of Monterey and Alemany chose the Royal Chapel to be his cathedral. So the church was a cathedral for ten years and then Alemany became Archbishop of San Francisco and his successor decided to move to Santa Barbara to be closer to Los Angeles. So San Carlos Cathedral was just a memory for a little more than a hundred years. Then in 1967 another pope reestablished the diocese of Monterey and the Royal Chapel became a cathedral again. It is commonly recognized as the smallest cathedral in America and one of the oldest (St Louis Cathedral in New Orlean’s French Quarter was built in 1789 but mostly rebuilt in 1850).


Mater Dolorosa.

So you will never find San Carlos Cathedral on any official list of California Missions. But it’s on my list. And we visited the chapel / cathedral a couple of weeks ago during our week-end sojourn to Carmel and Monterey.

The cathedral is located at 500 Church Street just off Fremont Street and a block from Lake El Estero. It’s just a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf. There’s a little museum next door in the administrative offices but it was closed the day we visited.

I again used my favorite preset in the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 plug-in to convert my color photos to monochrome. Why don’t you visit Leanne Cole’s website to see what other photographers are doing in monochrome these days?

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
This entry was posted in California, History, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to MM 2-25 Missions in Monochrome — San Carlos Cathedral: The Mission that Never Was (a Mission)

  1. disperser says:

    Another great treatment; I especially like the first one.

  2. Pingback: MM 197 Missions in Monochrome: Mission Santa Clara | Crow Canyon Journal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.