California Missions


California Missions:
A Journey Along the El Camino Real

This signature exhibit explores the 21 religious and military outposts founded by Spanish Catholic missionaries of the Franciscan Order on “The Royal Road.”

Beginning with Mission San Diego de Alcalá founded in 1769 and ending with Mission San Francisco Solano founded in 1823, the California Missions served as the first major European effort to colonize the Pacific Coast, which gave Spain a valuable toehold in the New World. In addition to introducing livestock, farming and ranching to the region, the settlers of “Alta California” assisted the quest to expand the Spanish Empire in North American by subjugating many of the Indigenous peoples into European culture and the Catholic religion as citizens of Nueva España, or “New Spain.”

Secularized by the Mexican government in 1833, the Missions represent a pivotal chapter of California history, covering a period of great transition.