Mission San Miguel Arcangel in the town of San Miguel is located bout 35 miles north of San Luis Obispo. Established in 1797, this was the 16th of the 21 Spanish Missions in California that stretch from San Diego to Sonoma. The site was chosen as an almost exact halfway point between Missions San Luis Obispo to the south and Mission San Antonio to the north (now on Fort Hunter Liggett near Jolon). Local natives painted the frescoes on the inside walls of the church, and they exist in their original state, having never been retouched. After the Mexican government secularized the missions in the 1830s, the last priest left San Miguel in 1840, and the mission buildings were used by the local community as a shopping center. The Catholic church regained control of Mission San Miguel in 1878. Today San Miguel is one of just four mission operated by Franciscans, the order that founded the original 21 missions.
The church building and surrounding area are currently closed to visitors. An earthquake in December 2003 created major cracks in the structure, but it has been temporarily shored up while funding is raised for reconstruction. The museum, gift shop, and mission gardens reopened in 2006.
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