Serra a saint? Track his travels and legacy

Serra a saint? Track his travels and legacy
Children play in the courtyard outside Carmel's Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Río Carmelo, better known as the Carmel Mission, on Aug. 26, 2014. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Pope Francis plans to canonize the man behind California's mission system, Father Junipero Serra. This is happy news in the tiled halls of the state's 21 missions, of course -- but a controversial idea in many other quarters.

Before you launch into any arguments over Serra's legacy (or plan your next California road trip), use these links to reach our guide to Serra's mission system and what it has meant to this state and its native population. The guide includes a timeline, a map, an interview with a Serra biographer, and a profile of every California mission with travel tips and more than 100 new and historic photographs.


If you grew up in California, you can probably already name the

of the Alta California missions; and perhaps also the one

But these pages will tell you about:

--The central coast mission where a notorious mass murder took place in 1848 (it's also the only mission that still has its original interior paint job).

--The much-moved and rebuilt mission that's now surrounded by a university.

--The mission surrounded by a military base (but still accessible if you know the ropes).

--The Southern California site that some people call the Disneyland of the missions (hint: swallows).

--The mission where a major native rebellion broke out in 1824. (It's now a great place for family visits, run by the state park system with a rural setting and farm animals.)

we have the story of two cousins -- both descended from the Ohlone tribe, both devout Catholics – who can’t agree on the idea of Serra sainthood.

you can see how California textbooks -- and this newspaper – have changed the way they tell the mission story.

Here is the Taco Bell angle. And here you see a sampling of school mission projects made by readers and their kids.

Need more? Here's an index to our mission pages.