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Deaths Of Serra and Crespi

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:25 pm    Post subject: Deaths Of Serra and Crespi Reply with quote

WHEN Fray Junipero Serra sailed for California to undertake the work of Christianizing and Hispanizing the Indians, he was in his fifty-seventh year—an age at which men of his day thought themselves entitled to a quiet place in the sun. Nor was his former pupil in the college at Palma and co-worker, Fray Juan Crespi, a young man.

Along with Fray Francisco Palou and Fray Fermin Lasuen, likewise students at Palma, the Presidente and Fr. Crespi had sailed to the New World, each aflame with zeal for this new undertaking— a spiritual exaltation difficult to understand in a self-centered and materialistic age such as ours. But the day is not far away when we will understand—when things of the spirit will be revalued in the light of human experience.

It came about, however, that at first only Serra and Crespi reached Alta California. Palou and Lasuen had been left in lonely posts in Baja California. Their parting, particularly that of Palou and his former professor, was full of tenderness, both hoping for an early reunion.

Another parting, this time until eternity, was to bring a crushing sorrow to Junipero—the death of his only associate, Father Juan Crespi.

It came, not without warning, on the first day of the year (1782). He was in his sixty-first year.

This truly great missionary, explorer and diarist, serving first at the Mission among the neophytes, and later among the gente de razon in Monterey, was a vigorous character. His achievement as a diarist of the first two land expeditions had not been evaluated by his people at such short range; but his perilous voyage with Perez to Alaska impressed the grandiose Spaniards as a brilliant piece of business for a friar, even an exploring friar.

When the Mission bells tolled the news of his death, the whole community repaired to the church to do him honor. And on the day of his burial, the Presidio, whose chaplain he was, fired a salute, officers and soldiers attending the ceremony.

He was buried on the gospel side of the altar in Carmel Mission, with all the honors of the Church, having received the last rites from the hands of Fray Junipero himself.

From that day, the Padre Presidente began to break. It is an interesting fact that the one and only time he is known to have uttered a complaining word concerning his personal life in Monterey was when he urged the provincial at San Fernando College to send him news of the college—news of friends and events; and, above all things, a companion, for loneliness in the wilderness was growing too great to bear. You see, he was a warm, friendly soul, loving his fellowman. He needed companionship and confidences more—much more—than he needed food and drink, "For fourteen months," he comments, "I have had no word from those in the outer world."

That his lowered spirits took heavy toll of his already impoverished body there is no doubt. A chronic sufferer from asthma, plus an ulcered leg, he grew weaker. With the realization that the end was drawing near, he determined to sail south, to take his farewell of his Indian children and his colleagues, and confirm the neophytes at the Missions as he walked back. Though urged to abandon the trip because of his infirmities—particularly his plan of walking back—he sailed for San Diego, full of courage that the Divine Spirit would sustain him.

He did visit all of the Missions in the south, beginning with San Diego, confirming the neophytes at each. And, taking a last leave of the friars in charge, he set out for the next, with his pack-mule and his servant. From San Diego to Monterey, afoot or on muleback, at seventy-one, is symbolic of the high spirit of the Founder of California. We who make the trip by motor think we have made quite a journey.

That he reached his beloved Carmel before he closed his eyes forever is one of the amazing accomplishments of his career.

A realist, he prepared at once for the end, ordering the carpenter to build his coffin.

Fray Francisco Palou, in charge of Mission San Francisco de Asis (Dolores), had come to Carmel on a journey to the south, leaving the work of his Mission in the hands of Fray Benito Cambon, its co-founder.

Palou's arrival brought joy to the dying Serra. It revived happy memories of college days at Palma. How many joys and sorrows they had experienced together, since that August day in 1749, when, with Crespi and Lasuen, they sailed gaily to the New World to follow Francis' rule among their brown brothers.

On the 27th of August, the Padre Presidente prepared himself for another long journey. He asked that he be given the Holy Viaticum.

"Then, let us decorate your cell, Father, and His Divine Majesty will visit you here," said Father Palou.

"No, son; since I am able to walk to the church, there is no reason why my Lord should come to me." And, rising from his cowhide couch, he walked to the church, "a distance of more than a hundred varas." "The commander of the garrison walked beside him, and all the Indians of the village," says Palou, "trooped about him into the sanctuary, with extreme tenderness and affection." Here in the sacred place, near the tomb of his beloved Crespi, he made his last earthly request—"Bury me beside Father Juan."

The next morning, the officers of a ship in the harbor and the officers from the Presidio rode over the hill to pay their respects. And the Indians, pagan and Christian, remained in quiet groups nearby, to await the end. Following a visit to the church after the Angelus had been rung at noon, the friar complained of weakness, and was induced to take refreshment. Going to the kitchen, he partook of a little broth, remarking, "Now I feel better. I think I shall go to rest."

Wrapping his robe about him, he composed himself for sleep. Fray Francisco with him as he closed his eyes.

At two, the devoted friend reentered the cell. As he drew near, he quickly realized the prophetic truth of the remark—"I shall go to rest.” His usual gentle smile playing about his lips, Serra had gone quietly to his God, whom he had served to the uttermost of his love and strength. Weeping, Palou broke the news to the waiting multitude. At once, the church bells began to toll, and in an incredibly short time, the colonists from Monterey came from over the hill. They had been waiting through the night and the day for what, to the little band of colonists, was their supreme tragedy.

The body was prepared for burial, and laid in the church, where all might pray beside it. Garlands of lupines and poppies had been woven by the Indians to grace his bier, while they cut bits from his garment to hold as mementoes of their best beloved friend.

The bells tolled all day, at intervals of five minutes, the sound being distinctly heard in Monterey.

The funeral was the most dramatic episode in California in its century. All types were represented in the endless stream of mourners—Indians, sailors, soldiers, colonists, officers from the ship, and the grave Lieutenant Soler of the Presidio, representing Governor Fages, away in the north. The neophytes spent the night weeping and wailing in the patio, according to their ancient custom.

As he had wished, the Founder of California was buried beside Crespi "on the gospel side of the altar.” There he is today, in the self-same tomb, his Basque successor, Fray Fermin Lasuen, beside him on the other side.

It is the belief of many students, including the painstaking Frances Rand Smith, in her Architectural History of Mission San Carlos de Borromeo, that the bodies of the two friar founders of Monterey were laid to rest where they sleep today. The theory is partly founded upon the fact that nowhere in all the recorded material concerning the Franciscan beginnings is there mention of the removal of the bodies from one church to another. So important a matter as the removal of Serra and Crespi would have been carefully recorded, and accompanied by high ceremony. Moreover, it is of record that a multitude of people—colonists, soldiers and Indians—were in attendance at Serra's funeral "inside the church." Obviously, the church must have held them. Then, there must have been a church in between the small temporary structure of 1773 and the stone church that has come down to us of today. Begun July 7, 1793, it was four years in construction. The theory is that the Franciscans were buried in an unrecorded second temporary church—one large enough to hold the growing Mission neophytes, and the attendants at the funeral obsequies—and that the present stone church was built around it, as at Santa Barbara. In that case, there would be no record of removals from one tomb to another, because there had been no removals.

It is worthy of record, too, that, though the Padre Presidente had gone to his rest some years before the building of the stone church, it bears a marked resemblance to the church he built in the Sierra Gordas. In the minds of many, there is no doubt that he and Father Crespi had a hand in the exterior design. One of the most beautiful churches, though not the largest, in the chain of Missions that be jeweled the coast of Alta California.

Its architectural beauty (before its roof-lines were ruined by the "restoration" of 1884) is enriched by the matchless charm of its setting.

The Rio del Carmelo, in the Spanish period, ran nearer the Mission quadrangle than it does today; in winter and spring, spreading its waters gently over the wide meadow-land that, in course of time, became the orchard and garden of the Mission establishment, from which the ships in port, and the too-lazy-to-work soldiers at the Presidio—even many of the rancheros—obtained their fruits and green things of the soil.
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