Architecture Of The California Missions

explanatory Essay
1438 words
1438 words

The Architectural History of the California Missions


You may already know that there are 21 missions today in the state of California. Starting in San Diego all the way past San Francisco, the missions remind us of an earlier time when the Spanish were colonizing Alta California. The California missions were started because the Spanish king wanted to create permanent settlements in the area of the New World called Alta California. The decision to create Spanish missions in California was political as well as religious. The Spanish government wanted to gain control in California before the Russians did. They also wanted to spread Christianity among the Native Americans (Johnson, page 5). Most of today's missions are active churches, some have held mass non-stop since their founding. Others are part of the California State Park system. All are modern day treasures and a path backwards in time to our beginnings. They have influenced many aspects of our history, and continue to be an important part of our state today. Thousands of people annually visit the Missions and they find its architecture beautiful and interesting. The architecture of the California missions was influenced by many factors like the limitation in the materials, the lack of skilled workers, and the desire of the founding priest to imitate the structure of his Spanish homeland.

The first thing they would do in the construction of missions was to find a location. Then they would decide what the position would be so that they would take the best advantage of the sun's position for interior illumination (Baer, page 42). After the position, they would lay out a map describing where everything would be located and constructed; starting from the pr...

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...ssion had its purpose, for example; the windows were placed high for a reason not so that they would look nice. They would place them high so that they would allow the most light in and also to protect themselves from future attacks. I only hope that you could learn some of the interesting information that I learned through the reading of my paper, hope you like,


1.) Baer, k. Architecture of the California Missions. Los Angeles, CA: university of California press, 1958.

2.) Camphouse, M. Guidebook to the Missions of California. Los Angeles, CA: Anderson, Ritchie & Simon, 1974.

3.) Egenhoff, E. "Fabrica." California Journal of Mines and Geology. 1952

4.) Johnson, P. The California Missions. Menlo Park, CA: Lane Book Company, 1964.

5.) Newcomb, R. The Franciscan Mission Architecture of Alta California. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc, 1973.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that there are 21 missions in the state of california, starting in san diego all the way past san francisco. the spanish government wanted to gain control in california before the russians did.
  • Explains the basic elements found in the california missions: a patio, buttresses, curved or pedimented gables, terraced bell towers or bell wall, wide projecting eaves, broad underdecorated wall surfaces and low sloping tile roofs.
  • Explains that adobe, timber, stone, brick, and tile were used in the construction of the missions.
  • Explains that windows were kept small and placed high on walls to protect themselves from attacks. they were the only source of lighting the inside of the missions other than handmade candles.
  • Explains that the missions adopted a strong roman influence in their design and construction techniques, just like many of the buildings in spain.
  • Analyzes how missions' architecture had a great impact on california's architecture. the fast-food restaurant taco bell is an example of this.
  • Explains that they never thought that the architecture of missions would be interesting and extensive, but as they did their research, they realized how interesting their paper was going to be.
  • Explains baer, k. architecture of the california missions. los angeles, ca: university of california press, 1958.
  • Explains camphouse's guidebook to the missions of california.
  • States newcomb, r. the franciscan mission architecture of alta california.
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