Mission Soledad Museum

Flash photography is not allowed.

The Museum and gift shop are in what was the west wing of the original quadrangle. An extensive archaeological dig in the 1980s found that this wing was the padre’s quarters. You enter the Museum through the gift shop. Each room, as you progress away from the gift shop, covers a later period in the life of the Mission.

Native Room

The first room is dedicated to the Native population prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Exhibits in this room concentrate on how the Native population lived. Most missions today are paying more attention to showing the life of natives before the mission era arrived.

Soledad Mission Museum Prehistoric Display

Picture taken 12:43pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Native Room Display

Picture taken 12:44pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Native Display Detail

Picture taken 12:43pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Deer Antlers

Picture taken 12:45pm 26 Feb 2012

And, some very nice paintings showing how the area where the Natives settled looked. It’s quite different from what you see today. Then, the Salinas and Arroyo Seco Rivers often flooded during the spring and winter seasons (remember the Salinas River is one of the only rivers in the U.S. to flow north instead of south so the mountains around Paso Robles feeds it). In summer, the Salinas River was dry on the surface but still ran underground producing an abundance of grasses and wildlife that lived off of them. Oak forests ran along the river banks. Archaeological evidence shows the Esselen populated the area for over four thousand years.

Soledad Mission Esselen Village Painting

Picture taken 12:45pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Salinas Valley

Picture taken 12:45pm 26 Feb 2012

The Mission Room

The next room in sequence is dedicated to the mission era from its founding until secularization. Various information displays along with artifacts explain that period.

soledad-museum-friar-wearAmong those artifacts you will find the original Mission bell – the one that hung outside during the 2003 visit – and a robe that the padre’s wore.The bell was cast in Mexico in 1799 by Ruells, a famous Mexican bell maker.

Soledad Mission Original Bell

Picture taken 12:47pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Painting of Mission

Picture taken 12:49pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Adobe Brick

Picture taken 12:49pm 26 Feb 2012

A painting of how the Mission likely looked along with an example of an adobe brick of the period are also on display.

Other exhibits above include keys and a lock, dueling pistols, and an iron axe with nails.Many padres considered the Soledad location to be wind-blown and desolate. This painting on the wall is one of the better depictions of that feeling.


Picture taken 12:53pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Keys and Locks

Picture taken 12:52pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Pistols

Picture taken 12:52pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Axe and Nails

Picture taken 12:53pm 26 Feb 2012

Music was a big part of Mission life. Most of the music was related to religious holiday observances. Boys were taught to play whatever musical instrument was available and some sang in the Mission choir. Music scores were written large so they could be seen by many.

Soledad Mission Museum Music Display

Picture taken 12:54pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission All Souls Bell

Picture taken 12:56pm 26 Feb 2012

Also, bells played a big role. Many were used in different patterns to signal time of day or events. The bell shown here, the All Souls Bell, was cast in Mexico and rung each evening at 8pm to call everyone to pray for the souls of the dead. It was kept in storage at San Carlos Mission, Monterey and returned to Soledad in June, 1983.
Remember from the Mission history…May 1835: The last Franciscan at the Mission, Padre Vicente Francisco de Sarría, was saying Mass and fell at the altar. He passed away later in the day. The few Indians remaining at the Mission built a litter and carried the body some 25 miles to Mission San Antonio de Padua for burial.This painting was probably made to memorialize that or some similar event.

Soledad Mission Museum Funeral Painting

Picture taken 12:55pm 26 Feb 2012

 The Rancho Room

When the mission era ended, the rancho period began. The hallmark of this period was the division of all mission properties among landholders or those who would become landholders. While this was supposed to include the Indians, most were cheated out of the land they were supposed to have and either attempted to go back to their prior lives (and failed) or became serfs working the lands for the new rancho holders. This Mission was sold to the Soberanes family for $800 and a copy of the document written by Governor Pio Pico is in the Museum (Spanish on the left and a translation to English on the right).

Soledad Mission Museum Pico Deed

Picture taken 1:05pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Pio Pico Signature

Picture taken 1:05pm 26 Feb 2012

Images of various members of the Soberanes family are on display in this room. The Soberanes family is famous in the Monterey area for their musical talents and hospitality to visitors passing through. In 1841 Governor Juan Batista Alvarado granted 8,994 acres to Maria Josefa Soberanes, a daughter of the Monterey family. Her father, Feliciano, and others obtained further grants later (one of these being the Soledad Mission). These all became known as Rancho Los Coches which had its headquarters at the Richardson Adobe located at what is now the intersection of U.S. 101 and Arroyo Seco; the road you turn onto to get to Mission Soledad. [Note: Their father, Jose Maria Soberanes, was a young member of the 1769 Portola expedition. [Reference: http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hummingbird/California/soberanes.htm]

Mariano G. Soberanes

Soledad Mission Museum Mariano Soberanes Bust

Picture taken 12:58pm 26 Feb 2012

Francisca Stephenson Soberanes
(Wife of Mariano)

Soledad Mission Museum Francisca Soberanes

Picture taken 12:58pm 26 Feb 2012

Mariana Soberanes

Soledad Museum Soberanes Daughter

Picture taken 12:59pm 26 Feb 2012

Mariano Later in Life

Soledad Mission Museum Older Mariano

Picture taken 12:59pm 26 Feb 2012

Relics of the rancho era are on display in the room. Some of these include bits of pottery, imported plates, a vat, and more.

Soledad Mission Museum Bowl

Picture taken 1:00pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum English Cerramic

Picture taken 1:01pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Blue Print Platter

Picture taken 1:01pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Museum Black Print Platter

Picture taken 1:01pm 26 Feb 2012

After about 1848 the rancho era came to an end. The tiles and other fixtures at the Mission were taken and used for other purposes and the adobe slowly just melted away as the rains and weather attacked what was basically dried mud. The Mission fell into ruin.

La Sala Room

The largest of the Museum rooms, the La Sala room, is being dedicated to current affairs at the Mission. A rotating panorama is shown below as an example of how the room was arranged in 2012. Expect these exhibits to change as excavations and other restoration projects are funded and proceed. But, before you see that, here are a couple of photographs of items of note.

Soledad Mission Museum Our Lady of Refuge

Picture taken 1:26pm 26 Feb 2012

The painting on the left is Our Lady of Refuge and was the painting hanging in the sanctuary on a 2003 visit. It now hangs in the La Sala room. The picture below left is of Orinda G. Petty who was leader of the Native Daughters of the Golden West in the 1950s and was largely responsible for the initial restoration of the Mission. The diagram below right shows the various phases planned for archaeological digging and restoration.

Soledad Mission Museum Orinda Petty

Picture taken 1:36pm 26 Feb 2012

Soledad Mission Restoration Plans

Photo taken 1:39pm 26 Feb 2012

As to the rest of the room…

Below you should see a rotating panorama of the complete inside of the La Sala room in the Museum. You should be able to click on the panorama to stop the rotation at any point and then drag the mouse left, right, up, or down to see any specific area. If you have a mouse wheel, it should be able to be used to zoom in and out. If one or more of these behaviors does not work click on the full screen icon (top right corner) and try the behavior again. If you are at full screen, press the ESCape key to have the panorama return to this page.

[pano file=”https://missiontour.org/wp/panoramas/soledad/museum/panorama.html”]