Thursday, June 14, 2012

California Missions - San Diego de Alcala

Hey There:

Once upon a time I used to work at Michael's Craft store, I worked there right around the time kids had  to build models of the different Missions in California as a school project. I loved looking at the craft projects ready to be assembled, but my fascination with the Missions started many years before when I was a kid living in Huntington Beach and our school had a road trip to San Juan Capistrano. It was so magical, right around the time the swallows came back to the Mission, I never forgot it.

The California Missions were built in the late 1700's and early 1800's, so for California purposes these are some the oldest buildings we have. They were built back when California was part of Mexico and the Spanish Empire, so many wars and conflict happened in those years, but we are lucky to still have them with us. My goal is to visit all 21 Missions, I have 5 down, 16 to go.

This time I'll show the one nearest to me: San Diego de Alcala.

church front


  • 1769 - Founded by Padre Junipero Serra.
  • 1774 - Moved from Presidio Hill above Old Town to present site in Grantville.
  • 1775 - Burned in Natives attack.
  • 1780 - Rebuilt.
  • 1801 - Damaged by earthquake.
  • 1883 - Secularized (Missions disbanded by Mexican decree.)
  • 1845 - Sold.
  • 1862 - Returned to Catholic Church.
  • 1931 - Rebuilt.

This is a small Mission, the model below makes it look bigger than it is. The courtyard is small, and a tour can be completed in less than 20 minutes.

Among the things you can see in the courtyard are the living quarters, a Kumeyaay hut and a fountain in the middle of the Mission courtyard.

living quarters

kumeyaay hut

courtyard fountain

The current church is the fifth one on the site and they also have a beautiful chapel. The floor of the church is made with very old adobe bricks, the benches are solid knotty wood, everything is in earthy golden colors with crimson here and there. The sun comes through beautifully through the stained glass windows. They have several areas for votive candles and they are always burning. The candles and matches are provided, all you need to do is put in some money through a slotted hole in the candle structure, light your candle and say your prayer. Out of respect I just can't bring myself to take pictures inside the church or the chapel, but trust me, it's beautiful.

The church is still being used for Masses in English, and if you go on a Sunday the Mission is open to the public for free. If you want to take a tour any other day of the week, they are open from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, anyone can go inside for a $3 donation fee, the gift shop is awesome!

Annually the Mission celebrates the Festival of Bells to commemorate the Mission's anniversary with food, dance, entertainment and the blessing of the bells and animals. All five Mission bells ring during the festivities, including an original bell dating back to 1802. This year, the festivities will be on July 13th, 14th and 15th.

The vegetation around the Mission is native and thick, which helps to drown out the sounds of the heavy traffic a few feet away. There are several areas where you will be compelled to sit down, relax and meditate.

native vegetation


  • California Missions - a Pictorial Tour (book)
  • Mission site
  • Wikipedia site

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