I recently discovered an architectural gem right in my own backyard, so to speak. Located in Old Town Monterey, CA, a fantastic beauty, lovingly restored, is the San Carlos Cathedral! Since it is not a "Mission" and not on the mission bell trail, it often gets overlooked, which is a missed opportunity for those interested in history and architecture.
What I learned from a visit, as well as their website, about this National Historic Landmark is that it is the oldest continuously functioning church (built in 1770) and the first stone building in the State of California as well as California’s first cathedral, designated as such in 1849.
Built in the ornate and elegant Spanish Colonial style with a striking stone facade, with touches of Moorish architectural flourish, making it unique among the California Missions. Though decommissioned as a mission when Carmel Mission was built, it was quickly re-purposed as the Royal Presidio Chapel to continue serving the soldiers and their families stationed at the Presidio and the local community, it is now a thriving local parish.
Architectural details include beautifully carved sandstone portals, unique carved wood molding and finely painted alcoves for statuary, and ornate arches. The exterior facade, top, and center contains a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe which is the oldest non-indigenous sculpture in the State.
I am continually surprised by the depth of history and architectural beauty the Carmel and Monterey area has to offer. It is exciting to discover new treasures all the time that feed my love of varied and beautiful interior design both past and present.
I encourage you to consider a visit to San Carlos Cathedral to explore California history and experience this amazing example of Spanish Colonial architecture.