Skip to comments.Cathedral yields more surprises: Crews unearth Presidio chapel remnants
Posted on 07/30/2008 6:51:18 AM PDT by NYer
The wall footings, foundation and floor of the oldest Christian house of worship in California were found during grading work on Monterey's San Carlos Cathedral on Monday.
The "third chapel" of the Royal Presidio of Monterey was a rectangular adobe building located directly in front of the present stone church, according to archaeologist Ruben Mendoza of CSU-Monterey Bay.
The chapel was built in 1772 after the first two chapels — a lean-to made of brush and a later log pole structure with a thatched roof — burned down.
Historian Gary Breschini, writing on the Monterey County Historical Society Web site, notes that "in 1789, a salute gun ignited a thatched roof, and the resulting fire burned half of the buildings, including the entire northern side" of the Presidio.
The chapel's footings were discovered as workmen dug to remove redwood tree roots that snaked under the church's foundation and into its walls over the years.
"If we don't get them out," said restoration volunteer Brian Kelly, "they'll rot and the soil will subside."
"Spoil" from the diggings is being sifted through a screen, and artifacts buried in the rubble have been recovered, he said, including fragments of plates, bottles and other items.
A drawing dated 1790 by sailor and artist Jose Cardero, who accompanied an expedition headed by Spanish explorer Alejandro Malaspina, shows the little chapel building with scaffolding for the present church behind it.
The drawing has proved "remarkably accurate," Mendoza said, showing features that archaeological digs have confirmed: the old padres' quarters, stone fortification points and the Presidio's walls.
Cardero might have used a "camera lucida," a lens and glass plate that would have allowed him to trace the scene in detail on paper and pencil.
Diggings have turned up evidence of the previous fires — some accidental and some possibly set deliberately to rid the compound of accumulated fleas and other pests that moved in with the priests and soldiers.
"It was a practice then to burn buildings in times of epidemics in an effort to halt the spread of disease," he said.
In front of the church door, archaeology students have been clearing away dirt over what appear to be basalt flagstones brought from considerable distance to serve as flooring and foundation, Mendoza said.
The area, once the sanctuary where the altar stood, likely marks the spot where Father Junipero Serra, "the apostle of California," celebrated Mass, he said.
The wall footings mark the width of the chapel and, assuming a then-usual 2-1 ratio of length to width, its other end would reach to the edge of Church Street.
"This is a critical historic structure," Mendoza said, "that should be preserved or documented."
A colleague, San Diego archaeologist and historian Jack Williams, who has studied California's Spanish colonial history extensively, dates the next oldest church in the state as Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1778, followed by Mission San Diego in 1790, Mendoza said. According to Mendoza, Williams believes the Monterey discovery should be placed on the National Historic Register.
"We want to make sure this feature is preserved," he said. "This is valuable to the Catholic and Christian heritage, and the architectural history of the state. Very little has survived from this period."
The oldest part of the present church was completed in 1794 and the rear apse and transept were added in 1858.
Restoration and seismic retrofitting work began in September. The cost, originally estimated at $5.5 million, has risen to more than $7 million as problems have been unearthed.
On June 3, the 238th anniversary of the founding of the church and the city of Monterey by Serra and Don Gaspar de Portol , the building was officially declared earthquake safe.
Funding for the project comes almost entirely from the parish and the Diocese of Monterey, but there was an AT&T grant of $250,000, a Community Foundation of Monterey County grant of $47,500, and many smaller individual donations, said project manager Cathy Leiker. The parish is still seeking donations for the project.
The work is expected to be finished and the church reopened for services in early 2009, Leiker said.
“in 1789, a salute gun ignited a thatched roof, and the resulting fire burned half of the buildings, including the entire northern side”
Sounds like “F” troop.
Very cool...Thanks for posting..
Just a word to the wise: The chapel's footings were discovered as workmen dug to remove redwood tree roots that snaked under the church's foundation and into its walls over the years.
Be careful what you plant next to the house. Or the sewer line.
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"Walk with Blessed Junipero Serra as he traces our Lord's footsteps in search of workers for the vineyard." Holy Spirit, you are the love and light of the world. Continue to give all Serrans the courage and generosity to respond ardently to your call. With one voice now, all Serrans say, "Here I am Lord." Fire each of us with a renewed spirit and enthusiasm to work for vocations for our Church. Deepen our commitment to the Serran mission that we may, indeed, walk "in his steps" on our journey. Father, we ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord, through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra and Mary, the Mother of the Church and religious vocations. Amen
In His Steps Prayer
"Walk with Blessed Junipero Serra as he traces our Lord's footsteps in search of workers for the vineyard."
Holy Spirit, you are the love and light of the world. Continue to give all Serrans the courage and generosity to respond ardently to your call.
With one voice now, all Serrans say, "Here I am Lord." Fire each of us with a renewed spirit and enthusiasm to work for vocations for our Church.
Deepen our commitment to the Serran mission that we may, indeed, walk "in his steps" on our journey.
Father, we ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord, through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra and Mary, the Mother of the Church and religious vocations.
July 1: The Feast Day of Blessed Junipero Serra
Blessed Junipero Serra
One of the seminal figures in the 18th century history of what is today the state of California is Blessed Junipero Serra. A Franciscan friar from the Spanish island of Mallorca, Blessed Junipero was born in 1713. We celebrate his feast day on July 1.
Junipero a religious name (his birth name was Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer) spent the first 35 years of his life as a student and professor of theology and then as a preacher. At 35 years of age, however, he felt a call from God to become a missionary in the Americas, much like St. Francis Solanus.
Landing in Veracruz, Mexico, Junipero and a friend hiked 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way one of Juniperos legs became infected after an insect bite. It would bother him for the rest of his life, but would not deter him from his missionary work. This included 18 years of activity in Central Mexico and the Baja Peninsula, a number of which were spent as president of missions for those regions.
Mission San Carlo Borromeo in Carmel, California
In 1769, King Charles III of Spain ordered the exploration and settlement of what is today the state of California. He did not want the Russian Empire to swallow the area from the north. Part of the settlement plan involved the foundation of missions along the way. The Franciscans took on this role and Junipero was a key presence among them. He travelled as far north as San Francisco, stood up for the rights of Native Americans, baptized 6000 people and confirmed 5,000. He died in 1784 and was beatified in 1988. His grave can be found at Mission San Carlo Borromeo in Carmel, California.