The Eslenes Indians who lived near the mission were were trained as plowmen, shepherds, cattle herders, blacksmiths, and carpenters. They made adobe bricks, roof tiles and tools needed to build the mission. In the beginning, the mission relied on bear meat from Mission San Antonio de Padua and supplies brought by ship from Mission San Diego de Alcala. By 1794, the population had reached its peak of 927, but in 1823 the total had dwindled to 381.
The mission was in ruins when the Catholic Church regained control of it in 1863. In 1884 Father Angel Casanova undertook the work of restoration. In 1931, Monsignor Philip Scher appointed Harry Downie to be curator in charge of mission restoration. Two years later Carmel Mission became an independent parish. In 1961, the mission was designated as a Minor Basilica by Pope John XXIII.
Today Mission San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo is one of the most popular tourist sites in all of California. It is a place of pilgrimage for visitors from all over the world. In 1987, Pope John Paul II visited the mission as part of his U.S. tour. It is also a very busy and active parish church.
See also: California mission