California Missions


Mission San Diego de Acalá

  • The first mission founded in Alta California.
  • The mission was destroyed by a Native American attack in 1775.
  • The U.S. Army used the mission as barracks from 1853-1858.

Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo

  • The church was made of stone.
  • Served as the headquarters to the California missions 1770-1803.
  • Father Serra is buried here.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

  • The first Christian wedding took place here in 1773 between a Native American and Spanish soldier.
  • The first mission to make and use fired clay roof tiles.
  • San Antonio was known for superior breeding of stock horses.

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

  • San Gabriel had the largest vineyard of the Alta California missions.
  • The church looks “fortress like” and is modeled after a cathedral in Córdoba, Spain.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

  • The mission had the second largest vineyard in Alta California.
  • The only mission church in California that is in the shape of an “L.”
  •  John C. Frémont and his “California Battalion” used the mission as their base of operations during the Mexican-American War.

Mission San Francisco de Asís

  • Most frequently called “Mission Dolores.”
  • Survived the earthquake and fire of 1906.
  • The movie Vertigo, with James Stewart and Kim Novak, was filmed here.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

  • San Juan Capistrano was founded twice, once in 1775 but due to the revolt in San Diego, it was abandoned and then refounded in 1776.
  • 1812 earthquake destroyed the Great Stone Church.
  • World famous for the Cliff Swallows migration every March.

 Mission Santa Clara de Asís

  • The mission site was relocated three times.
  • The church was rebuilt six times because of various natural disasters.
  • The mission site became Santa Clara University and is the oldest university in California.

Mission San Buenaventura

  • San Buenaventura was supposed to be the third mission but its founding was delayed 13 years and so it became the ninth mission.
  • In the 1890s, a misguided resident priest demolished all the mission buildings and remodeled the church in a Victorian style.

Mission Santa Bárbara

  • After secularization in 1833, Santa Bárbara became the mission chain’s headquarters.
  • Father Narcisco Durán made the mission the archival headquarters and still holds an archive of over 3,000 items dating back to the mission era.
  • Santa Bárbara is the only mission operated by the Franciscans since its founding.

Mission La Purísima Concepcíon       

  • In 1824, a Native American revolt took place lasting solely one month.
  • The National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps restored and reconstructed the mission in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • La Purísima Concepcíon is operated by the California State Parks.

Mission Santa Cruz

  • Santa Cruz is the only mission to have a tidal wave natural disaster.
  • The first autopsy in California was performed at the mission on Father Andrés Quintana in 1812 to determine if he had been poisoned.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

  • José Joaquín de Arrillaga, the first Spanish governor of Alta California, died while visiting and was buried beneath the church floor.

Mission San José

  • A Native American revolt occurred in 1828.  The Native American leader was Estanislao.  His struggle became legendary and his name anglicized to “Stanislaus” which became a prominent place name for local rivers, forests and landmarks.
  • San José was renowned for the orchestra and choir led by Father Narciso Dúran.
  • A smallpox and measles epidemic killed over 150 people in 1806.

Mission San Bautista

  • Fr. Estevan Tapis led the renowned Native American boys choir of San Juan Bautista.
  • The movie Vertigo with James Stewart and Kim Novak was filmed here.
  • Donner Party survivors, The Breen Family, used the storeroom (present day giftshop) as a temporary home in 1847.

Mission San Miguel Arcángel

  • Pio Pico sells the mission in 1846 to William Reed, who uses the mission as a family home.  Two years later, the Reed family was mysteriously murdered.
  • Between 1848-1870 the mission was rented as a store, dance hall, offices and a saloon.

Mission San Fernando Rey de España

  • In 1821, San Fernando finished the longest building recorded in the mission chain, making it a total of 243 feet long.
  • Restoration of the church was financed in part by selling thousands of candles for a $1.00 each in 1916.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francía

  • Pablo Tac writes the first primary account by a Native American called Indian Life and Customs at Mission San Luis Rey: A Record of California Mission Life.
  • In the 1950s, Walt Disney Studios used the ground to film the Zorro television series.

Mission Santa Inés Virgen y Mártir

  • A Native American revolt begins in 1824 after a soldier beats a young boy.
  • Santa Inés is one of the only missions to have gristmill ruins dating back to 1820.

Mission San Rafael Arcángel

  • San Rafael Arcángel was originally dedicated as a hospital in 1817 and five years later was given mission status in 1822.
  • A Native American revolt led by Chief Marin and Quintin in 1829 damaged many of the buildings.
  • John C. Frémont used the mission as his headquarters during the Mexican American War.

Mission San Francisco Solano

  • San Francisco Solano was the only mission founded during the Mexican rule of Alta California.
  • Most frequently called “Mission Sonoma.”