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Academy of American Franciscan History


As the founder and first president of the mission system in the Spanish province of Alta California, Junipero Serra is closely identified with California. Statues of him can be found at each of California's twenty-one missions and in places as diverse as Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and in front of the Ventura Courthouse. His name is attached to a mountain peak, various schools, and countless streets and thoroughfares. For instance, if one drives to San Francisco from the south, one fairly direct route to the city will take the traveler on Interstate Highway 280, formally named the Junipero Serra Freeway. Upon arriving in the city, one way to get downtown is via Junipero Serra Boulevard . Such "name branding" would imply that Serra lived his entire life in California, but in reality he spent only the last quarter of his life there. Indeed, he lived in the Americas for only half of his seventy years. His first thirty-five years were spent on the largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca. Serra lived the first fifteen years of his life in the small village of Petra on the island's western side. He entered the Franciscan Order at the age of sixteen and then for almost two decades he resided in an academic environment, first as a student, and then as an eminent teacher and preacher. In this essay we consider how the lesser-known first half of his life influenced the very public and much-studied fifteen years he later spent in Alta California.

Chapter of

From La Florida to La California: Franciscan Evangelization in the Spanish Borderlands


Timothy J. Johnson
Gert Melville


Copyright © 2013 Academy of American Franciscan History. Reprinted with permission.

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