Carmel's strikingly beautiful mission is an oasis of solemnity with flowering gardens and a thick-walled basilica filled with Spanish Colonial art and artifacts. The mission was originally established by Franciscan friar Junípero Serra in 1770 in nearby Monterrey, but poor soil and the corrupting influence of Spanish soldiers forced the move to Carmel two years later. The mission became Serra's home base and he died here in 1784.
He's buried in a chapel-like room in his former quarters, where you can also see his spartan cell that looks like something out of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The richly decorated casket in the nearby Mora Chapel Gallery, though, is empty and merely a memorial created by sculptor Jo Mora in the 1920s.
Don’t overlook the gravestone of ‘Old Gabriel,’ a Native American convert whom Serra baptized, and whose dates put him at 151 years old when he died. People say he smoked like a chimney and outlived seven wives.