Brief History of San Antonio de Padua

Due to the location of the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains, which tumble down to the sea in central California, the overland route between San Diego and the second mission at Carmel turned inland the latter half of the journey. Thus Father Serra chose an oak-studded valley east of the mountains for the site of his third mission. A bronze bell carried by a mule to that beautiful place was hung from a tree branch and Serra tolled it with vigor while shouting for the “gentiles” to come and receive the faith. When reminded that not a single gentile was in sight, Serra replied he hoped the bell could be heard around the world. So it was that the San Antonio Mission was founded on July 14, 1771.

Wooden sculpture from Mission San Antonio de Padua

The mission grew slowly but steadily. In addition to the church and a huge quadrangle there was a grist mill and an extensive irrigation system, along with many other evidences of prosperity. Yet the Indian population dwindled because of disease even before secularization. Eventually the mission was abandoned. An antique dealer stripped off the roof tiles which after were used on a railroad station. An earthquake left standing only the walls and brick facade of the church, plus a few lonely arches.

San Antonio is unique in that its locale remains as it was originally. The Franciscans returned and began to rebuild in the 1940s, working by hand as did the first builders. Now Mission San Antonio de Padua lives again.