Misión de San Javier de Biaundó, Located in a Mountain Area Called Viggé continued...

  • Lime kiln midway between the mission at San Javier and San José de Comondú, 1986
    Jesuit Miguel del Barco had this kiln built in the 1740s to calcine lime for the mortar used in building his elegant stone church at San Javier. The kiln was dry-laid from volcanic rock fragments and no doubt was used again a decade later when a stone church was erected at Comondú.
  • Foundations of the church built at Misión de San José de Comondú in 1716, 1990
    The ruins of Padre Julián de Mayorga's church mark the mission's original site at Comondú Viejo, some 20 airline miles north of today's Comondú.
    In 1714, Padre Mayorga and his soldier escorts staked out the foundations pictured here. Comondú needed a church larger and more permanent than the original small adobe erected in 1708. Once again the material was adobe because no nearby source of lime had been found and no masons were available to build with stone. The width of twenty-one feet was dictated by the maximum length of available rafter timbers. With deductions for three-foot thick walls, the interior was only fifteen feet wide, but it was made sixty-two feet long to accommodate the neophytes at this mission headquarters. Padre Mayorga combined a sacristy and storehouse under the same roof by extending the already hall-like plan an additional twenty-five feet.
    Neophyte laborers dug trenches and collected rocks of appropriate shapes and sizes for the foundation. Foundation walls of fitted and chinked stone were laid up to a height of two and a half feet, that is, from the bottom of the trench to about a foot or more above ground. When food was available to support labor, adobe blocks were manufactured, and the side walls were gradually laid up to a height of about ten feet. The end and intermediate walls were built even higher into gable points to match the rafter angle and to bear the ridgepole. Eight years after the founding of Misión de San José, the roof-members were put up and the church was thatched.
  • One of the several agricultural plots developed at Misión de San Jose de Comondú, 1967
    Misión de San José's basic crops were wheat and corn. In 1753 harvests were reported in precise figures: 72 tons of wheat and 33 tons of corn. That harvest probably represented the mission's needs for the year with perhaps a 20% surplus. However, climate, soil, and water resources of the arroyo were better suited to orchards and vineyards. Padre Juan de Ugarte initiated plantings as early as 1714 and experimented with every available fruit. Certain trees prospered and provided the cuttings or seed required to plant that and other mission orchards. Principal successes were figs and grapes, a basis for real trade because they yielded dried fruit and wine, products that could be stored or transported. Oranges, pomegranates, olives, lemons, and bananas also thrived and made important contributions to otherwise limited mission diets.
    In most years, Comondú's agricultural surpluses were crucial to the survival of the California colony. The presidio often had short-term food shortages. Several of the other missions were never able to supply their own basic food needs and depended on transfers from their more productive sisters.
  • Ruins of the chapel at the visiting station of Londó, 1990. Once an important cattle ranch of Misión de Loreto
    Londó was used as a watering and grazing station for the horses, mules, and cattle brought to support Admiral Atondo's occupation and exploration of the peninsula in 1684. In 1699, Jesuit Padre Salvatierra established a visiting station, subordinate to his mission at Loreto, to help in evangelizing the Cochimí who lived in the area. In 1708, Londó was made a visiting station of Misión de San José de Comondú, a mission devoted exclusively to converting Cochim whereas Loreto principally addressed the Monquí, a people of different culture and linguistic stock. During the 1750s, Comondú became so depopulated due to introduced diseases that Londó's valuable grazing lands were returned to Loreto and became that mission and village's principal source of beef.

The Mission Church at San Ignacio

Jesuit Padre Jose Mariano Rotea initiated work on San Ignacio's large, fine stone church in 1762. By 1768, when the Jesuits were expelled, the walls had been raised to full height and awaited a stone vaulted roof. In the confusion of successive Franciscan and Domnican administrations of Antigua California's missions, construction stopped until the 1780s when it was completed under the direction of the veteran Dominican missionary, Juan Crisostomo Gomez.

  • Grapevines at Misión de San Ignacio, 1974. Long the most important of the peninsula's wine producing missions.
    Early in 1755, in a confidential report to his superior, Visitador General José de Utrera noted that four California missions- San Javier, San José de Comondú, La Purísima, and San Ignacio together produced nearly 4,000 gallons of wine. He reported that, in addition, San Javier, La Purísima, and San Ignacio collectively produced 1,400 gallons of aguardiente (brandy). Utrera did not visit in a year of exceptional yields; San Ignacio was the biggest producer of both wine and brandy, but due to a flash flood, the harvest of 1754 was only a third of what it had been in each of the preceding two years. The magnitude of Utrera's figures seems to belie the Jesuits' usual claim that peninsular missions produced only enough wine for sacramental needs, or, in good years, a small surplus they could sell or trade to help pay for embellishing their churches or stocking their storehouses.
  • Facade of Misión de San Ignacio, 1967
  • Great Muralla, or dike at Misión de San Ignacio, 1971
    Between 1750 and 1767, Jesuit Padres Fernando Consag and José Mariano Rotea persuaded their neophytes to erect a massive wall nearly two miles long in an effort to prevent flash floods from Arroyo del Parral from washing away Misión de San Ignacio's agricultural land.
  • Misión de San Luis Gonzaga, 1990
    This small, simple, but sturdy church was built in the 1750s by the German Jesuit, Padre Johann Jakob Baegert. Baegert, an important chronicler of Jesuit California, spent seventeen years [1751-1768] at the peninsula's loneliest, bleakest outpost to which he added the only enduring monument.

Jesuit Road Building to Facilitate the Mission Process

The Jesuits and their employees struggled with California's broken, rocky terrain as soon as they began to expand their enclave beyond Loreto. They endured a painfully slow pace as their mounts moved over it. Plans to build and maintain a main trail or camino real were made early and followed faithfully throughout their seventy years on the land. Once a mission site was chosen, a trail was cleared to connect it with the nearest older establishment. Missions were located at water sources, so Indian footpaths usually indicated the best routes between them. Often the camino real was created simply by widening and smoothing an old trail.

The Jesuits, or skilled soldiers or masons, laid out the camino real, using stakes to indicate the sight lines of its course. Then soldiers and neophyte men took over a formidable task. They cleared the larger, loose stones out of the pathway and laid them in neat borders along the sides. They levelled the path as much as possible, chipping away protrusions from buried rocks, and filling holes with small debris. They moved rocks weighing hundreds of pounds by using iron bars and hardwood tree trunks as levers. They constructed switchback trails on hillsides by clearing paths in the tumbled rocks. The floods of the centuries have long since wiped the arroyo bottoms clean and eroded many hillsides, yet on mesas and slopes in the volcanic mid-peninsular region several dozen miles of these mission-period roads can still be found.

  • El Camino Real midway between San Ignacio and Santa Gertrudis, 1967
  • El Camino Real in Arroyo del Infierno, 1971
    William Decker, my son-in-law, took this picture of me and part of our party as we rode on the ancient direct route from San Ignacio to Santa Marta among fantastical forms of peninsular vegetation torote [Bursera microphylla] on the left, and cardón [Pachycereus pringlei] on the right.