The Spanish missions in California (Spanish: Misiones españolas en California) comprise a series of 21 religious outposts or missions established between 1769 and 1833 in what is now the U.S. state of California. Founded by Catholic priests of the Franciscan order to evangelize the Native Americans, the missions led to the creation of the New Spain province of Alta California and were part of the expansion of the Spanish Empire into the most northern and western parts of Spanish North America.
The surviving mission buildings are the state’s oldest structures and its most-visited historic monuments. They have become a symbol of California, appearing in many movies and television shows, and are an inspiration for Mission Revival architecture. The oldest cities of California formed around or near Spanish missions, including the four largest: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco.