Blessings on the Byway at San Miguel Arcangel

San Miguel Guadalupe Chapel

A journey through central California offered this lovely respite from driving, on a cloudy and cool Thanksgiving afternoon. We visited San Miguel Archangel, one of the California missions established by the Franciscans in the eighteenth century, each mission a day’s horse ride apart. For us, it was just off Highway 101, and we have stopped here before on this route. At the left just before entering the church was the locked doorway to the Guadalupe Chapel.

San Miguel Guadalupe at Sanctuary Entrance

The Lady also greeted us upon entering the big sanctuary. The grounds and buildings of this mission have seen and felt much devotion for many years, and so is one of Earth’s sacred places.

San Miguel Eye of God

The mission is named for the Archangel Michael. Above him on the main altar is the Eye of Providence in an equilateral triangle, snugly enclosed in a heavenly cloud, gazing out over the congregants. On Thanksgiving Day, that was only we few. This eye symbol is largely associated with the Freemasons. I have not seen it in a church before. It is usually surrounded by rays of glory. All of the frescoes in this church are the original paintings done by Salinan artists.

Outside one of the bells of the old El Camino Real stands sentry in the cloudy sky. These are to be seen all up and down the old road of Californio, on the highway or the byway.

San Miguel bells tower

In the old cemetery stands the stone-built bell tower, with a trio of old bells. We heard the bell ringing, but it was probably a recording, since there was no one on the grounds that day.

San Miguel Salinan People

There were many ghosts there however, including many of the Salinan Indians who built this mission. At some point the church fathers decided it might be a good idea to honor them, which explains this cross in the cemetery with the feather-carved arms and the plaque “In Honor of the Salinan People.”

San Miguel stone carved letters

We marveled at the hand-cut letters in this marble monument, the tiny curvilinear letters surely trying the skill of the stone carver. These V-cut letters, carved in the 1880’s, are almost a lost art, replaced today by the faster but less attractive sandblasting. These letters still carry the mark of the maker.

San Miguel young nopales cactuses

Young prickly pear cacti are a lovely shade of violet, as these I discovered by the cemetery wall. These produce the nopales fruit, a Mexican delicacy.

San Miguel bicentennial painting

San Miguel Arcangel is over two hundred years old. Here in California, that is some real history!

San Miguel tree sign

This helpful sign was posted in the parking lot to remind us not to back into the tree.

In the midst of a whirlwind two-day journey to southern California and back, this was an oasis of calm and contemplation for us. Everywhere but here was full of people; we enjoyed the quiet for a while and then moved on.




{ 5 comments… add one }
  • june maffin 11/27/2011, 1:20 pm

    What a lovely trip you had – and now that you’ve shared it on your blog, I feel as if I’ve been along for the ride. I loved the purple cacti and the sense through your text and photos, of it truly being “an oasis of calm and contemplation” – not just for you, but for those of us who subscribe to your blog too. Thank you, Cari. Blessings to you on this the first day of the Advent of the Winter Solstice. 🙂

    • Cari 11/27/2011, 1:27 pm

      Yes, I did want to share that peaceful feeling, especially as we are all bent on getting as much done as possible in the next few weeks, at a time when it is most natural for us to draw inward. It is a fine balance between the joy of community and the necessity of contemplative time, at this darkening time of the year. Thank you for sharing your response with us, June.

  • Michele 11/29/2011, 5:05 pm

    There’s something about the word “archangel” that I’ve always loved. Just the sound of it. Years ago when I first read Waking the Moon I was *so* disappointed to find out that the The University of the Archangels and St. John The Divine wasn’t real!

    • Cari 11/29/2011, 5:23 pm

      I agree, Michele, and am disappointed when I see the mission’s own website refer to it simply as Mission San Miguel. I always knew it as that until this trip when I finally discovered the Arcangel part of it’s original name in the painting for the bicentennial. I can’t figure out how to get my keyboard to give me the accent mark, guess if I chose a Spanish keyboard it would. I love the Spanish spelling, making the prefix Arc instead of Arch, slightly different to my imagination.

  • Lea 12/09/2011, 12:59 pm

    Cari, San Miquel Arcangel is one of my favorite places on earth. Haven’t been there for a few years, but it is such a richness of beauty, history, and possibility. Thank you for reminding me of a couple of wonderful trips of my own with De-Anna.

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