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 priest's quarters, refectory, convent, workshops, kitchens, soldiers' and servants' living quarters, storerooms, court or patio, and other additional living quarters. The patio was one of the most important structures of missions; they...
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