Mission San Antonio de Padua

In the summer of 1771, a little group of Franciscan missionaries headed by Padres Junípero Serra, Miguel Píeras and Buenaventura Sitjar entered the Valley of the Oaks. In this secluded valley, the Padres hung a bell on the branches of an oak tree. Padre Serra tolled the bell with vigor and so was that on July 14, 1771, he founded Mission San Antonio de Padua, naming it for Saint Anthony. It was the third mission to be founded in the chain, after San Diego and Monterey, the latter mission being moved to Carmel.

The site of the mission, south of Monterey, had been chosen earlier and Father Serra lost no time in returning to the area to begin establishing San Antonio. But water sources proved to be unstable in the chosen area, so in 1773 the mission was moved farther up Los Robles Valley to its present site. Towards the end of the same year, a small church and dwellings were built. In 1779, the first church was replaced by a bigger adobe church and a small sacristy.

The third and final adobe church was started in 1810 and completed three years later in 1813. The church was 200 feet long and 40 feet wide and its adobe walls were about 6 feet thick. It is the same church building which stands reconstructed today.

From its beginning, San Antonio de Padua proved to be a very successful mission and in its prime was the home of thirteen hundred Indians. A large-scale aqueduct system was also developed by the Franciscan fathers to gather water from the nearby San Antonio River. This extensive water system of aqueducts, dams and reservoirs greatly contributed to the success of this mission. Much of the water system is still visible today.

The mission was secularized in 1834 and offered for sale in 1845 but no takers were found. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln returned Mission San Antonio to the Church together with 33 acres of surrounding land. After much neglect, the mission was eventually abandoned in 1882 and plundered of all usable construction materials.

Between 1903 and 1908, the California Landmark League, under the leadership of Joseph R. Knowland, began to restore the mission. The rebuilding of the church was ongoing when the great earthquake of 1906 destroyed most of the restoration works. After the earthquake, only the walls and the brick façade of the old church were still standing, along with a few rows of brick arches.

In 1948, the Franciscans fathers returned to the mission and, upon receiving a grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, began a major restoration work which lasted until 1952. Present reconstruction is the result of their hard work. In order to restore the 1813 mission church as closely as possible to its original appearance, the Franciscans fathers used the same construction methods and materials employed by the first builders.

Today, Mission San Antonio spreads out beautifully in the middle of an oak-studded valley. It is the only mission whose surroundings still look as they once did. Here travelers can delight in the spaciousness that characterized all of the missions at the height of their success.

Location of Mission San Antonio de Padua

1 Mission Creek Road, Fort Hunter Liggett, CA 93928, United States

Official Website of Mission San Antonio de Padua

Official Mission Website