Mission San Miguel is one of California's historical and cultural treasures. The beautiful old mission building, whose foundations were laid nearly 200 years ago, is a precious part of our spiritual heritage, with a story that is integral to California's history.
Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén founded Mission San Miguel on July 25, 1797. Almost two years earlier, the site was selected to close the gap between Mission San Antonio and Mission San Luis Obispo. It was a beautiful spot on the Salinas River called Vahca by the natives, Las Pozas by the Spaniards or "The Wells". The mission was to be named for the "Most Glorious Prince of the Celestial Militia, Archangel Saint Michael". Father Buenaventura Sitjar, the first administrator at Mission San Miguel had ministered to the Salinan people for 25 years at Mission San Antonio prior to his arrival at Mission San Miguel. Father Sitjar was fluent in the Salinan language and baptized 15 youth the first day Mission San Miguel was established.
From the church building, the property extended 18 miles to the north and 18 miles to the south; the property extended 66 miles to the east, and as far as the Pacific Ocean, 35 miles to the west.
A temporary church was built in 1797 but was lost to fire in 1806, at a time when more than one thousand neophytes were living and working at Mission San Miguel. Preparation for a new adobe church began soon after. Tiles and adobe blocks were made and stored for 10 years before the stone foundation of the church was laid in 1816. By 1821 the church was completed along with the interior frescos designed by Esteban Munras. The success of the mission was largely due to Father Juan Martin (1770 – 1824).