Founded on 3 June of 1770, the Real Presidio de San Carlos de Monterey or the Royal Presidio of Monterey was named for the 16th century Bishop of Milan, Saint Charles of Borromeo. Established in the wake of the Sacred Expedition of 1769 by Commander Gaspar de Portolá and Franciscan friar Junípero Serra, OFM, the conjoined Presidio garrison and Franciscan mission complex soon became the heart of Spanish authority and the military command of the Californias more generally.

The paucity of native peoples on the Monterey peninsula, as well as the limited agricultural viability of the Presidio’s location soon led Fray Junípero Serra to relocate his early mission endeavor to the banks of the Río Carmelo at Carmel. During this period of transition, the adobe Chapel of 1772 was completed at what Serra now referred to as the “old stand.” Fray Juan Crespí was left to administer the chapel of San José during the transition at the Presidio.

The Presidio’s chapel was the venue for a host of epic historical events beginning with Fray Serra’s administration of the chapel, including those Catholic services specific to the consecration of the momentous 1774 and 1776 expeditions of Lieutenant-Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza.  Significantly, the third Presidio Chapel of 1794 was the first building in California designed and built by an architect and stonemason, Manuel Ruiz. The Santa Lucia sandstone and shale-block chapel of 1794 is distinctive for its incorporation of one of the earliest sculpted portrayals of the Virgin of Guadalupe west of the Mississippi.

Finally, the CSU Monterey Bay Institute for Archaeology launched a comprehensive 2-year archaeological investigation of the Chapel of 1794 in 2006. In 2008, principal investigator and project archaeologist Dr. Rubén Mendoza supervised his team in the recovery of the first and earliest archaeologically recovered evidence for a Christian house of worship in California. Said discovery has since been determined to represent both the Chapel of 1770, and that of 1772. Each of these structures were built and administered by the Blessed  Fray Junípero Serra, OFM.

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