Roger Kennedy is very much a historian for our time. Never content with a mere sequence of facts, figures, and events, he brings to his subject the voice of an interpreter and storyteller, ranging back and forth in time and space, blending the many and various aspects of human endeavor into the pattern we call history. This fascinating story of the missions of North America traces the long trail of "the friars [who] went forth from Catholic Europe to gain converts among the American Indians ... to colonize America for Spain and thereafter to deny its riches to any other power". The missions themselves represent a unique example of building on a frontier, memorializing a "grand endeavor": the westward extension of the great Crusades to the East. The book begins with a discussion of the religious context of the mission-building period and goes on to draw vivid historical portraits of the participants, both European and American. Kennedy describes the specific architectural features - domes, cloisters, ribats - that resulted from the merging of cultural forces. Finally, Kennedy serves as a witty and urbane tour guide through each of the most important mission buildings, from the traces of ruins in Florida to the glory of the restoration of La Purisima Concepcion in California.