Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Naming of Carmel

(Image: Sebastian Vizcaino. Facsimile of 17th century engraving. Considered in the public domain)

Carmel is known around the world as a beautiful seaside resort, and it is known more locally for a variety of things and places – the one-square-mile Carmel-by-the-Sea village, the Mission just outside those boundaries, the Valley, the Highlands, the Meadows, the Woods, etc. The famous name actually comes from none of those; it originated with the river. Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, the first European known to land on the Monterey Peninsula, walked with Carmelite friars to the top of the hill south of Monterey Bay in 1602 and saw the river cutting through a tree-filled valley and emptying into another bay. The gorgeous scene reminded the friars of Mount Carmel in what is now northern Israel and the West Bank, where the Carmelite order was formed. (Carmel in Hebrew can be translated as "garden.") Vizcaino and his landing party named this new place "El Rio de Carmelo." The name endured and spread.

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