Music! Dance! Food for the spirit and the body! Colorful soldiers, artisans, vaqueros on horseback, and neophytes (Indians).
Next Saturday, April 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can treat yourself and your family to a rare slice of California history. It’s the most authentic California mission history event that I have ever been privileged to attend.
It’s Mission Day at Mission San Antonio de Padua near Jolon in southern Monterey County. Demonstrations will include adobe brick making, acorn grinding, tortilla making, weaving, bead making, face painting, rope making, bell ringing and more.
John Warren’s The New World Baroque Orchestra will perform an authentic Mission-era concert in the restored church with its original brick campanile (bell tower) at 2 p.m.
San Antonio is called “the mission in the Sierras” and is the most remote of all of California’s chain of 21 Franciscan missions. Yet it’s less than an hour and a half away from most points in San Luis Obispo County.Mission San Antonio is about 30 miles northwest of Camp Roberts along Monterey County road G-18, which is reached at the Jolon turnoff.
The mission is the third in the mission chain and is on what was once the main road between San Luis Obispo and Monterey.
The openness has been preserved because the mission is still within the boundaries of the Army's Fort Hunter Liggett, a 165,000-acre preserve used since the beginning of World War II for special training and weapons testing. It’s now a support site for our troops in Afghanistan.
Its remoteness makes San Antonio one of the least-visited missions. That’s what always makes it so special. Despite extensive reconstruction, it still has a romantic, abandoned appearance.
The gentle breeze on a warm spring afternoon helps conjure the faint images of some of the 1,300 Indian workers and the 17,000 head of livestock they tended. You can still see purple stains in the mission’s brick wine vat.
Mission San Antonio is also the final resting place of Fr. Juan Bautista Sancho, who served the mission between 1803 and his death in 1830. You can see his grave at the foot of the altar.
Padre Sancho collected a considerable amount of church music while attending the Franciscan seminary in Palma de Mallorca in Spain. Once in California, he also composed sacred music and formed an orchestra and choir at Mission San Antonio.
Today, thanks to the studies of William Summers of Dartmouth College and Cal Poly’s Craig Russell, Fr. Sancho’s role as Hispanic California’s premier musician is being widely recognized.
The New World Baroque Orchestra’s performance includes the music of Padre Sancho along with secular music including “La Marcha Real,” the Spanish national anthem, which would have been performed wherever there was a band or orchestral group.
The grand entrance procession opens with a rendition of the traditional “El Cantico del Alba.” The Catalonian Soldados follow with the flags of imperial Spain and the Bourbon kings. Californio Dancers will enter the church in full costume accompanied by “La Marcha Real.”
Such a procession greeted the expedition of Capt. Juan Bautista de Anza and 200 colonists as they arrived at the mission in 1776, on their way to found San Francisco.
The parking and admission fee is $10 per car. Mission-era food will be offered for $10 a plate with water and soft drinks also available. Mission Days is a family event, so no alcoholic beverages please.