Mission San Miguel Arcangel: One of the Best California Missions

Mission San Miguel Arcangel was the sixteenth of the California Missions to be founded, and it opened its doors in 1797. While the original church was destroyed, the current chapel was built in the early 1800s, and the mission itself is one of the most beautiful for the old style that is still on display there. It is one of my favorite missions, as the photographic opportunities make it a great place to engage with the history you are visiting. You can read about my time visiting all the missions here or read on to learn about the beautiful Mission San Miguel Arcangel.

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Getting There

Mission San Miguel is located right off Highway 101 on the Mission St exit. You can see the mission right when you get off the freeway, and there is a small parking lot in front of the mission for visitors.

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Be sure to also stop by the historic bell tower that you see when you get off the freeway. It is not close to the parking lot, but you can pull off for a few pictures on the way.

The Mission

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San Miguel is in my top five missions, as it has been able to maintain a historic style in a realistic and not renovated way. The walls feel like they are crumbling in front of your eyes, and while it still feels perfectly safe, the decay makes for pretty amazing pictures and experiences. The vibe of the mission is more like a living history than the others.

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The exterior of the missions has one large section of the quadrilateral and the facade of the chapel. The chapel facade is relatively plain as far as the missions go, but it looks nice next to the old wall.

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There is a large fountain on the outside as well that had lots of plants growing around it and koi inside. The top was swarming with bees when I went, so I didn’t spend much time there.

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Along the backside of the chapel, there is a vast graveyard that is historic in California’s mission history.

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This mission was the first to bury an Indian convert to Christianity in its cemetery, and by the end of the mission’s time, thousands were buried here.

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The back of the cemetery had an old stone bell tower that was beautiful to see as well. Lastly, there was a statue of Father Serra at the bottom of the exterior courtyard, which you can see before you head in.

The Interior

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After paying my $3, I headed into the first stop in the mission, the museum.

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The museum featured two rooms with lots of information about the Native American history in the area and life on the mission.

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From there, you head to the interior courtyard. You have to look at it from afar as it was not open to walk around in when I was there since priests still actively live here.

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As you walk into the next section, you will come across the sheep gate. The sheep gate is a fun addition to the mission as I hadn’t seen one like it at any of the others.

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Next, you will head into the four rooms of artifacts that they have here. These rooms were my favorite part as the walls are old, and it feels like you are walking through history.

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They have done a great job of setting up example rooms to show you what the original bedrooms and kitchen would have looked like.

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The last room in this area is dedicated specifically to artifacts.

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I loved this room as it had walls that were crumbling, a fireplace, and awesome hanging lights.

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There was also a statue of an angel stepping on the devil in the back corner that was unique to see as well.

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After you leave this section, you will head outside again and go towards the chapel.

The Chapel

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The chapel at Mission San Miguel was one of the most distinct ones I saw while visiting the missions. There were some artistic designs on the altarpiece which differed from the more traditional style of the other missions.

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First, there was the all seeing eye of God at the top of the altar.

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Next, both walls next to the altar had starburst type art pieces painted on them. I thought this was a unique chapel, and it quickly became one of my favorites.

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Mission San Miguel is a great mission to visit as it is right off Highway 101, and it has a lot of beautiful things to see. It is in my top five missions, and I highly recommend it. You can read more about day four on the missions trail here and the missions trail as a whole here. Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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