California was steeped in history before it became a state and was greatly influenced by the Spanish, who first landed there in 1542. Spain, being a devout Catholic country, sent missionaries to California to convert Native Americans to Catholicism. During the period between 1769 and 1833, the missionaries established twenty-one Spanish Missions along the California Coast. Carmel Mission was one of the earliest missions, built in 1770. The mission was headed by Saint Junípero Serra from 1770 until his death in 1784. In the many years since then, the Carmel Mission church is one of the most authentically restored of all the mission churches in California and is listed as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. It still acts as an active parish and serves as a museum that displays the fabulous Spanish architecture. It is quite beautiful inside and well worth a visit.