The Serra Monument Since 1891, the Father Serra Monument has been a well-known landmark visible on the hill rising above Monterey's Harbor. The monument commemorates the landing by boat of Father Junipero Serra at Monterey, who founded Monterey with Governor Gaspar de Portola on June 3rd, 1770. Serra, a Franciscan friar, was the founding father of the California missions. Serra came ashore just below today's Lower Presidio Historic Park where he joined Portola. The two exploring parties they led, one by land and one by sea, embraced and celebrated the finding of Monterey which they had long sought. Here they would build a mission and a presidio, or fort, as the northern-most frontier outpost of the Spanish empire. On Sunday, June 3rd, 1770, they formally took possession of the port at Monterey and all of Alta California for Spain. Father Serra celebrated a mass of thanksgiving under the branches of an ancient oak tree. 168 years earlier, explorer Sebastian Vizcaino had celebrated mass at the very same spot when his expedition first claimed the land for Spain. Once Portola's soldiers unfurled the Spanish flag, Governor Gaspar de Portola and his officers officially took possession of Monterey. Following time-honored tradition, they claimed the land by moving rocks to the west and east, north and south, threw dirt over their shoulders, fired cannons, and rang bells. It wasn't long before Portola returned to Spain leaving Father Serra behind to establish and manage the first string of missions in Alta California. Serra initiated his work in Monterey, but moved the mission to nearby Carmel in 1771. He died in 1784 and was buried at the Carmel Mission, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. In 1891, Jane Stanford, who founded Stanford University along with her husband Governor Leland Stanford, commissioned John Combs to create the monument. It commemorates Serra's landing and the founding of Monterey. Stanford requested that the statue be erected on the most prominent site of the Lower Presidio - the site of the old Spanish fort, El Castillo.