Fr. Serra’s Bible Given to Adolph Sutro in 1890

September 22, 2015

By Gary F. Kurutz, Executive Director

Pope Francis I will be visiting the United States and will canonize Fray Junípero Serra as a saint of the Catholic Church on September 23. Fr. Serra is recognized as the founder of the California mission system. In 1890, Adolph Sutro was given a most unusual gift: a Bible thought to have been used by Serra at Mission San Carlos (Carmel). Padre Angelo D. Casanova, the resident pastor of Monterey, presented the holy book to Sutro believing that it been Serra’s Bible. The leather-bound Latin Bible was printed in Lyon, France in 1581. In 1948, the Sutro Library loaned it to the California Centennials Commission for a statewide bus tour. The front endpapers of the Bible are inscribed by an unknown hand. Monsignor Francis J. Weber, the emeritus archivist of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and an authority on the missions, asserts that it is not in Serra’s handwriting. Casanova was the priest who discovered Serra’s grave at Mission Carmel and led the effort to restore the mission in 1894, the centennial of Serra’s death.  Of course, much controversy surrounds the sainthood of Serra but the Bible does have an intriguing history and is a fascinating biblio-treasure at the Sutro Library in San Francisco.

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