San Antonio de Padua

Mission San Antonio de Padua. Courtesy of Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.
Mission San Antonio de Padua. Courtesy of Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.

History of Mission San Antonio de Padua

Mission San Antonio de Padua, nestled in central California’s Valley of the Oaks, is number three in the Franciscans chain of twenty one missions, established July 14, 1771. Located below the Santa Lucia Mountains, adjacent to the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation in Jolon, California, Mission San Antonio de Padua is almost as isolated today as it was more than 200 years ago.

Like many of the missions, San Antonio de Padua fell into ruins after Secularization. Fortunately, restoration efforts led by the Historic Landmarks League and the Hearst Foundation have brought back the splendor of early California.

In 1773, the fathers moved the mission from its original location to a spot further up Los Robles valley because of an unstable water source. Here, the mission fathers developed an extensive aqueduct system, which brought water from the nearby San Antonio River, to be used for bathing, washing, and crop irrigation. Today, the Mission boasts the most complete mission era water system in California.

In addition to its sophisticated water system, Mission San Antonio was the first to use a Spanish, red-tile roof. Realizing the old thatched roofs posed a fire hazard, the fathers looked to the Spanish style, which used dried clay for tiles. Tiled roofs had two advantages over the old thatched roofs: they protected against fire, and they were also waterproof.

Preserved at the mission are the colored notes used by the fathers to teach music to the native population. Traditional instruments included drums, violins, guitars, and harps, like this 19th-century model.

The church at Mission San Antonio has been marvelously restored. Saint Anthony, the mission’s patron saint, stands at the center of the altar. The church boasts one of the first recorded California marriages, held in 1773.

Peaceful and rustic, the mission now serves as a retreat center, where guests can find solitude, away from the busyness of everyday life.

From Inside the California Missions
© David A. Bolton

Quick Facts

  • 3rd mission
  • Located in central California’s Valley of the Oaks
  • Below the Santa Lucia Mountains, in Jolon, California
  • Isolated, peaceful, rustic, traditional
  • Fell into ruins after secularization
  • Restoration efforts by historic landmarks league, and the Hearst Foundations, have brought back splendor
  • Extensive aqueduct system
  • 1st Alta California missions to use a Spanish tile red roof – dried clay – 2 advantages – fire-resistant & water proof
  • Fathers used colored notes to teach Indians songs & the catholic religion
  • Typical instruments on display in the mission museum
  • Church has been marvelously restored
  • Patron saint – Saint Anthony of Padua – located at center of the altar
  • Hosted one of California’s first marriages – in 1773

End of Mission Creek Road
PO Box 803
Jolon, CA 93928

Landmark Status
National Register of Historic Places
California State Landmark #232

Directions to the Mission
From US-101 : Exit at Fort Hunter Liggett/Jolon Road. Proceed 26 miles to Fort Hunter Liggett Reserve (the gate is not staffed). Turn left  and proceed 5 miles to the mission.

Hours of Operation
Usually 10a - 4p daily. Please call 831-385-4478 x17 for current hours.

Gift Shop
Museum of Native American and Mission-era Archaeology
Retreat Center 
Fiesta Grounds with bbq pits, picnic tables, and entertainment pavilion with a dance floor