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Santa Ines Mission Bells (2003)

The bell tower of Mission Santa Inés, in Solvang, California. In the foreground is one of the “bell” markers that usually indicate the route of El Camino Real, the “royal road” along the California coast built in the Spanish colonial era to link the missions. The Pacific Coast Highway and Interstate Route 101 now follow much of El Camino Real.

Mission Santa Inés is actually nowhere near El Camino Real. The Franciscans built it as a kind of annex to the Santa Barbara and La Purisima missions (which are on El Camino Real), for the “benefit” of the Chumash Indians in the geographically isolated Santa Ynez Valley.

Accurate or not, the marker provides an appropriate foreground (along with the cactus and bottlebrush) to the gleaming white church tower. These elements create an image that, for me, epitomizes mission-era California.


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