Mission San Diego de Alcalá

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Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Mission San Diego de Alcalá
The church façade of Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Mission San Diego de Alcalá is located in San Diego
Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Location in San Diego
Location 10818 San Diego Mission Rd.
San Diego, California 92108-2429
Coordinates 32°47′4″N 117°6′23″W / 32.78444°N 117.10639°W / 32.78444; -117.10639
MISSION SAN DIEGO DE ALCALá Latitude and Longitude:

32°47′4″N 117°6′23″W / 32.78444°N 117.10639°W / 32.78444; -117.10639
Name as founded La Misión San Diego de Alcalá [1]
English translation The Mission of Saint Didacus of Acalá [2]
Patron Saint Didacus of Alcalá [1]
Nickname(s) "Mother of the Alta California Missions" [3]
Founding date July 16, 1769 [4]
Founding priest(s) Father Presidente Junípero Serra  [5]
Built 1769
Architect Fr. Jose Bernardo Sanchez
Founding Order First [2]
Headquarters of the Alta California Mission System 1769–1771 [6]
Military district First [7] [8]
Native tribe(s)
Spanish name(s)
Kumeyaay (Ipai / Tipai) [4]
Diegueño [4]
Native place name(s) Kosoi, Nipawai [9]
Baptisms 6,522 [10]
Confirmations 1,379 [11]
Marriages 1,794 [10]
Burials 4,322 [10]
Neophyte population 1,455 [10] [12]
Secularized 1834 [2]
Returned to the Church 1862 [2]
Governing body Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego
Current use Parish Church
Official name: San Diego Mission Church
Designated April 15, 1970 [13]
Reference no. 70000144 [13]
Designated April 15, 1970 [14]
Reference no. #242
Designated October 6, 1976 [15]
Reference no. 113

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá was the first Franciscan mission in The Californias, a province of New Spain. Located in present-day San Diego, California, it was founded on July 16, 1769 by Spanish friar Junípero Serra in an area long inhabited by the Kumeyaay people. The mission and the surrounding area were named for the Catholic Didacus of Alcalá, a Spaniard more commonly known as San Diego. The mission was the site of the first Christian burial in Alta California. San Diego is also generally regarded as the site of the region's first public execution, in 1778. Father Luis Jayme, California's first Christian martyr, lies entombed beneath the chancel floor. The current church is the fifth to stand on this location. [16] [17] The Mission is a National Historic Landmark. [14] [18]


The former Spanish settlement at the Kumeyaay's Nipawai lies within that area occupied during the late Paleoindian period and continuing on into the present day by the Native society commonly known as the Diegueño; [19] the name denotes those people who were ministered by the padres at Mission San Diego de Alcalá. [20] Relatively, much is known about the native inhabitants in recent centuries, thanks in part to the efforts of the Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who documented his observations of life in the coastal villages he encountered along the Southern California coast in October 1542. [21] Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, is credited with the discovery of San Diego Bay. On the evening of September 28, 1542 the ships San Salvador and Victoria sailed into the harbor, whereupon Cabrillo christened it "San Miguel." [22] During that expedition a landing party went ashore and briefly interacted with a small group of natives. Some sixty years later another Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno, made landfall some ten miles from the present Mission site. Under Vizcaíno's command the San Diego, Santo Tomás, and frigate Tres Reyes dropped anchor on November 10, 1602, and the port was renamed "San Diego de Alcalá." [23] [24] It would be another 167 years before the Spanish returned to San Diego. Ever since the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Kingdom of Spain sought to establish missions to convert the pagans in Nueva España (" New Spain") to Roman Catholicism to save souls, and in part, to facilitate colonization of these lands. However, it was not until 1741—the time of the Vitus Bering expedition, when the territorial ambitions of Tsarist Russia towards North America became known—that King Philip V felt such installations were necessary in Upper California. [25]

In 1769, Visitador General José de Gálvez sent the expedition of Junípero Serra and Gaspar de Portolà to found missions and presidios at San Diego and Monterey (see Timeline of the Portolà expedition), thereby securing Spain's claim to the Pacific Coast harbors recommended by Cabrillo and Vizcaino. [26] Two groups traveled from Lower California on foot, while a pair of packet ships (bearing supplies) traveled up the coast from the Baja California Peninsula. [27] [28]

Rancho period (1834–1849)

On August 9, 1834 Governor Figueroa issued his "Decree of Confiscation." [29] The missions were offered for sale to citizens, who were unable to come up with the price, so all mission property was broken up into ranchos and given to ex-military officers who had fought in the War of Independence against Spain. On June 8, 1846 Mission San Diego de Alcalá was given to Santiago Argüello by Governor Pío Pico "...for services rendered to the government." [30] After the United States annexed California, the Mission was used by the military from 1846 to 1862.

Plaque of the Mission San Diego de Alcala

California statehood (1850–1900)

President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation on May 23, 1862 that restored ownership of the Mission proper to the Roman Catholic Church. [31] [32] When Mission San Diego de Alcalá was granted back to the Church, it was in ruins. In the 1880s Father Anthony Ubach began to restore the old Mission buildings.

20th century and beyond (1901 – present)

Father Ubach died in 1907 and restoration work ceased until 1931. In 1941, the Mission once again became a parish church, in what is still an active parish serving the Diocese of San Diego. In 1976, Pope Paul VI designated the Mission church as a minor basilica. [18]

Mission San Diego de Alcalá is located within San Diego city limits, near the intersection of Interstate 8 and Interstate 15, and approximately one mile east of Qualcomm Stadium. The parish is partially funded by a gift shop, and self-guided tours of the grounds and buildings are available to the public for a small donation.

Other historic designations

  • California Historical Landmark #242
  • California Historical Landmark #784El Camino Real (starting point in Alta California)
  • City of San Diego Historic Designation #113

Mission industries

The cattle brand used at Mission San Diego. [33]

The goal of the missions was, above all, to become self-sufficient in relatively short order. Farming, therefore, was the most important industry of any mission. Prior to the establishment of the missions, the native peoples knew only how to utilize bone, seashells, stone, and wood for building, tool making, weapons, and so forth. The missionaries discovered that the Indians, who regarded labor as degrading to the masculine, had to be taught industry in order to learn how to be self-supportive. The result was the establishment of a great manual training school that comprised agriculture, the mechanical arts, and the raising and care of livestock. Everything consumed and otherwise utilized by the natives was produced at the missions under the supervision of the padres; thus, the neophytes not only supported themselves, but after 1811 sustained the entire military and civil government of California. [34] Wheat, corn, wine grapes, barley, beans, cattle, horses, and sheep were the major crops at San Diego. In 1795, construction on a system of aqueducts was begun to bring water to the fields and the Mission (the first irrigation project in Upper California). [35] The building manager was Fray Pedro Panto, who was poisoned by his Indian cook Nazario before the project was completed. [36] In his testimony, in the trial that followed, Nazario stated that he had poisoned the friar due to constant beatings inflicted by Friar Panto. [37]

The Mission San Diego was primarily supported from lands included in a Spanish royal land grant, encompassing roughly the eastern third of the current City of San Diego, as well as most of the cities of La Mesa and Lemon Grove. While not exact, its boundaries are roughly Interstate 805, Miramar Road, Route 125 (California), Skyline Drive and Division Street. Boundary Street (which parallels Interstate 805 in the neighborhood of North Park) lies directly on one portion of the boundary and draws its name from it.


The first vinyards planted in California, were planted at the mission in 1769. [38] Father Junípero Serra planted these initial vines. [39] The vines were of the Mission variety, which were bright to Mexico in the 16th Century. [40] Unfortunately, the initial plantings did not survive, with Mission San Juan Capistrano having the first surviving plantings. [41] By at least 1781, wine was being produced at the mission. [42] One source claims that the vineyard on mission lands reached up to fifty thousand acres. [43] The mission vineyards were around until at least 1823. [44]

Mission bells

Bells were vitally important to daily life at any mission. The bells were rung at mealtimes, to call the Mission residents to work and to religious services, during births and funerals, to signal the approach of a ship or returning missionary, and at other times; novices were instructed in the intricate rituals associated with ringing the mission bells. This mission had five bells.


Mission ... San ... Diego ... Alcalá ...



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