Mission Soledad – Founded in 1791 the thirteenth of the California Missions

Mission Soledad

Mission Soledad

Along the El Camino Real, Mission Soledad was founded thirteenth of the twenty-one California missions. Restored after near ruin, it now sits amid fields of green in the productive agricultural area of the Salinas Valley.

Mission Soledad in a mosaic of green fields

The Mission Soledad is situated in what is now one of the world’s most productive agricultural areas – the Salinas Valley.

You can see this in the satellite image to the right – a mosaic of green of fields whose produce finds its way to tables throughout the country and the world and sliced through with the Salinas River which makes it all possible.

At the time of this mission’s founding, all this agriculture of course did not exist.

At the time of its founding, Mission Soledad was between the existing missions of San Antonio to the south and Carmel to the north.

Mission Soledad Quick Facts

Address: 36641 Fort Romie Rd. (Highway G17), Soledad (Monterey County)
GPS coordinates: 36.40466, -121.35605
Phone: 831-678-2586
Church and Museum Hours: Open daily 10am to 4pm; Closed 1st of January, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas day
Mission Soledad Mass times: Mass is held on the first Sunday of every month at 10am (except in June when it’s held on the last Sunday). There is also a sunrise service on Easter.
Founding: October 9, 1791 by Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen
Formal Name: La Mision de Maria Santisima Nuestra Señora Dolorosisima de la Soledad translating as The Mission of Mary Most Holy, Our Most Sorrowful Lady of Solitude

Exterior of the Soledad Misson

As you drive through this area, you will quickly learn one of the main things about the Salinas Valley – it gets very windy in the afternoons.

The valley acts as a funnel directing the winds off the ocean straight south and with no trees to slow it down.

This made this mission a less desirable posting for the early padres. It was also only marginally prosperous in its agriculture and raising of livestock.

The Salinas River, while valuable for the mission, also caused damage over the years. The site of the mission was flooded at least three times with the last coming just two years prior to secularization.

1873 sketch of the mission by Edward Vischer

The sketch above by Edward Vischer was done in 1873, about 40 years after the Mexican government secularized the missions, selling the property and disbanding the natives to an uncertain future. It is titled “Ruins of the Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, in the Salinas plains”.

With no care or attention, adobe construction is very susceptible to rapid deterioration. This process continued unchecked at Mission Soledad until the 1950’s when renovation (actually reconstruction) began.

Ruins of the Soledad Mission about the year 1900

This photo, taken about the year 1900, shows the ruinous condition to which the mission had come.

Fortunately, the building which began some 60 years ago continues today along with archaeological studies which are providing insights into life in the mission period.

In 2007, archaeologists from Cal State University Monterey Bay found evidence of a 15 mile long aqueduct which brought water from the Arroyo Seco creek that irrigated 20,000 acres.

That’s a lot of land, over 31 square miles, or equivalent to a square measuring over 5.5 miles on each side!

The reconstruction of the church was done under the guidance of Sir Harry Downie, who spent most of his life restoring the Mission Carmel to the splendor which it enjoys today.

What To Expect When You Visit:

The main altar of the Soledad Mission church

The mission is part of the Catholic Diocese of Monterey, but no longer functions as a parish. It is considered a “chapel” and part of the current parish of Our Lady of Solitude in the town of Soledad proper.

The church is small, but has some interesting details and historic artifacts.

I especially like the effect that is created with the painting of the roof beams.

The quadrangle, which is so much a part of the California missions, is present, but is bordered by the remnants of the foundations of the former surrounding structures.

The portions of the mission which have been restored now house artifacts of the mission era, including a pair of dueling pistols, the likes of which aren’t found at any other of the California missions.

How to get to Mission Soledad:

From the north you will travel highway 101 south of Soledad. Take the Arroyo Seco Road exit and head west for about one mile. Take a right on Fort Romie Road and go about one mile. The mission will be on your left.

From the south you will travel highway 101 passing Greenfield. About one mile south of Soledad take the Arroyo Seco Road exit. Take a right on Fort Romie Road and go about one mile. The mission will be on your left.

View of the rear of the church at Mission Soledad

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