Explore 200 years of history at Mission San Miguel Arcàngel

Monday, July 1st, 2024

Mission San Miguel

Photo courtesy California Missions website.

Tours available

—Located 10 miles north of Paso Robles, Mission San Miguel Arcàngel, founded in 1797, is the 16th of the 21 missions established in the Alta California mission system. Along with traditional mission-era architecture, the appearance today is much the same as when it was built. Now a State and National Historical Landmark, the mission controlled approximately 3600 square miles of land until the Mexican government took over. The padres raised livestock, vineyards, wheat, beans, lentils, vegetables, and melons.

In 1806, a fire destroyed the original church. Construction on a new church was completed in 1821 when the interior frescos designed by Estaban Munràs were painted by Salinans under his supervision. At the time of rebuilding, 1000 Salinans were reported to be living and working at the mission. Esteban Munràs, a Spanish-born Californio artist, settled in Monterey, where he built Casa Munràs, the first home to be constructed outside the walls of the Presidio.

A variety of artifacts are on display and can be viewed while touring the mission and the grounds. The elaborate frescos that were completed in the church after the 1821 restoration are the only original, untouched mission frescos left in California.

When Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, the missions were secularized in 1833. Mexico broke up the land formerly held by the missions into large land grants called ranchos and gave them away. Mission San Miguel was one of the last to be secularized in 1836. When Mexico surrendered to the United States, settlers arriving in California began either buying or finding other ways to take possession of the land.

Secularization also liberated the indigenous people from control of the missions. A small minority of the indigenous received land grants, leaving the majority to on their own. Some, having learned horsemanship, farming, and other skills at the missions worked on the ranchos.

Petronillo Rios and William Reed took possession of the mission in 1846, where the Reed family lived until the entire family and their household staff were murdered in 1848. After the murders, the mission was occupied by commercial enterprises.

The missions as a whole were returned to the Catholic Church by the United States in 1865, but the San Miguel mission was returned earlier, in 1859, by President James Buchanan. No priests were sent to the mission until 1878. In 1928 Mission San Miguel was returned to the Franciscan order. After being closed to the public due to the 2003 San Simeon earthquake, the church reopened in 2009 after extensive renovations.

Visit the mission

The mission is located at 775 Mission St., San Miguel. Mass is held daily. The gift shop is open Thursday-Monday from 10 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Closed on major holidays. Tour tickets, available from the gift shop are $10/adult, $8/senior, $5/child 6 to 17 years, $20/special family rate for up to five people, and $5 for each additional person. For schedules, events, or more information, visit www.missionsanmiguel.org, or call (805) 467-3256.

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