Highlights of the California Missions
(1) San Francisco Solano (founded 1823) The last mission founded. Founder Jose Altimira flogged the Indians so often, they stormed the buildings in 1826, forcing Altimira’s departure.
(2) San Rafael Arcángel (1817) Located in a sunny clime, this mission was a health sanctuary for ailing neophytes from the chilly San Francisco mission. On the day of its founding, 200 Indians presented themselves for catechism.
(3) San Francisco de Asís (1776) Its first worship service was held five days before the Declaration of Independence was signed. From 1821 to 1826, disease killed 1,570 Indians here.
(4) San José de Guadalupe (1797) Father Narciso Duran taught the mission Indians to read music and play European instruments, and he then formed a 30—piece band. Indians came from miles to hear the concerts.
(5) Santa Clara de Asís (1777) Fifty children were baptized within the first year. By 1832, this mission had recorded the most baptisms of any—8,536.
(6) Santa Cruz (1791) One of the least successful missions, it had only 523 Indians at its height.
(7) San Juan Bautista (1797) Although built on the San Andreas fault, its major buildings have survived. The 1812 sanctuary is still used for worship.
(8) San Carlos Borromeo (1770) Headquarters for Serra and his successor, Fermin Francisco de Lasuén. Serra was buried here.
(9) Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (1791) Floods, isolation, cold, and dampness caused 30 different missionaries to pastor this lonely (soledad) mission in some 45 years.
(10) San Antonio de Padua (1771) A bear hunt in 1772 netted 9,000 pounds of meat and saved this and Mission San Carlos from starvation.
(11) San Miguel Arcángel (1797) In 1831, a Mexican commissioner gave this mission’s Indians the right to leave. They refused to go.
(12) San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (1772) Hostile Indians twice set fire to its dry roofs made from tule plants. The friars then made the first tile roofs, so characteristic of mission architecture.
(13) La Purísima Conceptión (1787) In its first four months, 75 Indians were baptized. The 1812 earthquake and floods devastated the mission’s buildings. Indians seized and held the mission for a month in 1824.
(14) Santa Inés (1804) The least successful mission, gaining an average of only 45 converts a year. During an Indian revolt in 1824, the mission was burned. The rebels, though, had tried to put out the fire-they were angry with the soldiers, not the friars.
(15) Santa Bárbara (1786) First of nine missions founded by Lasuén, Serra’s successor. Parts of the original aqueduct are still used by the city of Santa Barbara.
(16) San Buenaventura (1782) The last mission Serra founded. It became noted for its fruits and vegetables; ships replenished here.
(17) San Fernando Rey de España (1797) The last of four missions founded by Lasuen in the same summer. Rodeos were held almost daily; raising cattle was big here.
(18) San Gabriel Arcángel (1771) A soldier’s rape of an Indian chief’s wife—and the chief’s death during attempted revenge—slowed evangelistic efforts here for years.
(19) San Juan Capistrano (1776) Its cathedral—like church took ten years to build; the 1812 earthquake demolished it in one minute. Worship was in progress at the time, and 40 Indians were killed.
(20) San Luis Rey de Francia (1797) Fifty—four children were baptized at its founding. By 1832 more Indians (2,788) lived here than in any other mission.
(21) San Diego de Alcalá (1769) Serra’s first mission. It took one year to gain its first convert. non-mission Indians attacked it in 1776, killing three Spaniards.
By Mark Galli
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #35 in 1992]
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