Mission San Miguel de Arcángel is one of 21 missions that were part of the Golden State's historic Mission Trail.
All are located on or near Highway 101, which runs the length of the state, from the Mexican border to the Oregon border (and beyond).
Highway 101 is not the same as, but almost, the original El Camino Real, which in Spanish means The Royal Road. It was named after the Spanish monarchy which financed Spain's expeditions into California as part of its quest for empire and the supposed riches that such empire would bring.
"Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén founded Mission San Miguel on July 25, 1797," states the mission's Web site, which is the best I've seen of any mission Web site to date.
"Almost two years earlier, the site was selected to close the gap between Mission San Antonio and Mission San Luis Obispo. It was a beautiful spot on the Salinas River called Vahca by the natives, Las Pozas by the Spaniards or 'The Wells'."
The mission was named for the "Most Glorious Prince of the Celestial Militia, Archangel Saint Michael."
"Father Buenaventura Sitjar, the first administrator at Mission San Miguel had ministered to the Salinan people for 25 years at Mission San Antonio prior to his arrival at Mission San Miguel," the Web site notes. "Father Sitjar was fluent in the Salinan language and baptized 15 youth the first day Mission San Miguel was established.
"From the church building, the property extended 18 miles to the north and 18 miles to the south; the property extended 66 miles to the east, and as far as the Pacific Ocean, 35 miles to the west."
The temporary church built in 1797 was consumed by fire in 1806. By that time, the mission had a population of more than 1,000.
"Preparation for a new adobe church began soon after," the Web site notes. "Tiles and adobe blocks were made and stored for 10 years before the stone foundation of the church was laid in 1816.
"By 1821 the church was completed along with the interior frescos designed by Esteban Munras. The success of the mission was largely due to Father Juan Martin (1770-1824)."
With Mexican independence eventually came the secularization of the missions in 1834. To Mexico's eternal shame, the missions were placed under the control of an "administrator," and many, if not all, suffered greatly.
Shamefully, it would be nearly 100 years before the mission was returned to religious control.
"On July 4, 1846, Petronillo Rios and William Reed took possession of the mission buildings and the Reed family occupied the recently abandoned mission," the Web site continues.
Eventually, "the mission rooms were converted to commercial stores such as, a hotel, saloon, and retail shops," according to the Web site.
"President Buchanan returned the mission buildings and surrounding property to the Catholic Church in 1859," the Web site notes. "A resident priest was assigned to Mission San Miguel in 1878 and the mission parish was established.
"In 1928 the mission was returned to the Franciscans, serving as a local parish, a novitiate training school for those becoming Franciscan Friars and a center for retreats and meetings."
The mission and adjoining buildings were severely damaged by the 6.5 (Richter scale) San Simeon Earthquake of 2003.
It would not be fully reopened for three years.
If you would like to learn more about Mission San Miguel de Arcángel, please visit its excellent Web site
(I wish all mission Web sites were so well-edited with great graphics, easy navigation, photos, etc.).