Father Serra

Perhaps you have already noticed the larger-than-life sculpture of Father Junipero Serra on a hillside near Hillsborough as you drive north on Highway 280. Father Serra was the Franciscan missionary who established the first 9 missions in Alta (Northern) California from 1769 to 1784 for Spanish King Charles III.

Artist Louis Du Bois designed the 26 foot tall monument, constructed of steel and concrete, in 1975. Father Serra is kneeling and points his finger aggressively. He kneels on one leg, on a base with 9 sides, each side representing a mission he founded. Father Serra’s pointing finger and draped sleeve suggests the head of a donkey, the usual transportation of the era. In reality, he preferred walking to riding, and stood only 5 feet 2 inches tall.

I parked at the Crystal Springs rest stop and hiked up to the Serra statue, along a steep but landscaped path. I surveyed the Crystal Springs Reservoir located just across the highway to the west. This man-made reservoir sits on the San Andreas Fault, the rift between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. Coastal Mountains rise on the western side of the reservoir, a result of the south-east movement (slip/strike) of the North American plate. The landscape around me is dry chaparral, with outcroppings of serpentine rock. Across the highway the landscape is green and forested.

Returning to the rest stop I read that the architects have incorporated geologic details into the site and landscape plan.

I note the jagged design in the plaza in the paving and along the curbs. A bird’s eye view in Google maps shows confirms that the buildings sit along a similar jagged line.