The San Miguel Mission in San Miguel, California is one of the oldest missions in California. Its main purpose 200 years ago was to teach Catholicism to the Salinans, native people who had lived in the region for many years.
- The San Miguel Mission was named for Archangel Saint Michael
- It was started by Franciscan Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen in 1797.
- The original wooden church, built in 1797, burned in a fire in 1806. The mission quickly began plans for a more permanent building.
- More than 1,000 Salinans lived and worked at the mission. They helped rebuild the church, starting by making tile and adobe bricks.
- In 1821, the church was completed. Artist Esteban Munras painted beautiful frescoes on the walls.
- In 1833, Mexico passed the Mexican Secularization Act, which took lands and buildings from the Catholic Church and made them nonreligious places. In 1846 the Reed family purchased the property and made it their home, a hotel, a saloon, and a store. They were killed by thieves in 1848.
- The buildings sat empty for several years until President Buchanan returned the property to the Catholic Church in 1859. In 1928, Franciscan Friars occupied it again and began restoring the buildings.
- An earthquake in 2003 caused severe damage to the church and the surrounding buildings. The mission has slowly renovated and repaired it as money is available. Today, it looks much as it did in 1821. The frescoes on the walls are still there.
- Fresco: a mural, typically painted on wet plaster or stucco.
- Renovate: bring back to original condition
Questions and Answers
Question: Why did Mexico take the property from the church?
Answer: After Mexico won independence from Spain, the people were afraid that Spain would use the Catholic Church to continue to influence the country. The Secularization Act was similar in purpose to the U.S.’s policy of church and state separation after the Revolutionary War.
See photos of the mission.
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