Serra, Junípero

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Serra, Junípero

Junípero Serra (hōōnē´pārō sĕ´rä), 1713–84, Spanish Franciscan missionary in North America, b. Majorca. His name was originally Miguel José Serra, and Junípero was his name in religion. For 15 years he taught philosophy in the college at Palma. In 1749 he was sent to America with Francisco Palou, his lifelong friend and biographer, and proceeded to Mexico City, where he taught briefly at the College of San Fernando. For three years he worked successfully among the Native Americans of the Sierra Gorda and then returned to Mexico City for seven more years, working half of each year in the surrounding villages. His passionate preaching and stern asceticism won him a large and respectful following. It was at this time that his self-mortification began and that legends began to grow up about him. In 1769, Serra went with the second expedition to California, which was commanded by Gaspar de Portolá. When the party reached San Diego, Serra remained to found (1769) the mission there, while most of the rest of the party went on in search of the harbor of Monterey. When they returned unsuccessful, Serra was one of those responsible for the sending of another expedition, which he accompanied. When Monterey was reached and the mission San Carlos Barromeo founded (1770), Serra remained there as president of Alta California missions; in 1771 he moved the mission to Carmel-by-the-Sea, which became his headquarters for the rest of his days. Under his presidency were founded the missions San Antonio de Padua (1771), San Gabriel Arcángel (1771), San Luis Obispo (1772), San Juan Capistrano (1776), San Francisco de Asís (1776), Santa Clara de Asís (1777), and San Buenaventura (1782). The source material on Father Serra is chiefly in Francisco Palou's Life and Apostolic Labors of the Venerable Father Junípero Serra (tr. 1958) and The Founding of the First California Missions under the Spiritual Guidance of the Venerable Padre Fray Junípero Serra (tr. 1934).

See biographies by T. Maynard (1954), D. Gordon (1969), and K. Ainsworth and E. M. Ainsworth (1970); study by M. F. Sullivan (1971).

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