Mission San Diego de Alcala

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10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA 92108
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Daily 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Experience the first Mission in California, Mission San Diego de Alcala. This San Diego Mission offers history, archaeology, architecture and faith.
Mission San Diego de Alcala
History of the Mission
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History of Mission San Diego de Alcala

Priest Living Quarters at the Mission Basilica San Diego De AlcalaMission Basilica San Diego De Alcala with Statue in Front

San Diego's Mission Valley is home to the first Mission in California, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala. This Mission was established by a Spanish Franciscan friar, Junípero Serra, on July 16, 1769. The Roman Catholic Mission was created as a part of a colonization plan from Spain's King Philip V, aiming to bring the Christian religion to the area's native Kumeyaay people and establish a claim on the Pacific Coast.

The first structure of this San Diego Mission was actually located a few miles west of the current compound on Presidio Hill. Five years after it was established, Mission San Diego de Alcala was relocated to its current spot in Mission Valley by lead pastor Father Luis Jayme.

A few years later, the conflict between the Spanish colonizers and the native Kumeyaay society led to the Mission being raided and set on fire in 1775. Father Jayme perished in the fire and was laid to rest in the sanctuary.

Father Serra helped rebuild the Mission and erected a protective wall around the compound. By the 1800s, the Mission was a thriving place, complete with crops and livestock.

In 1846, the Mission, which was now part of Mexico, was sold by the government to a private landowner, Santiago Argüello. When the United States annexed California, the property became a strategic base for the U.S. military until 1862.

After the end of the Civil War, the Mission was given back to the Roman Catholic Church, but over the years it had become in disrepair. Members of the clergy began a restoration of the building and grounds.

The remodeling stopped and started a few times until the Mission was finally rebuilt in 1931. In 1941, the Mission once again became a parish church for the community. Pope Paul VI named the Mission a basilica in 1976.

Today, the Mission is part of a thriving community in San Diego, with busy restaurants and other top San Diego spots close by. It is a popular tourist attraction, offering visitors a glimpse of California's colonial and religious history. The architecture, gorgeous grounds, art, culture and information about faith attract visitors, scholars and religious pilgrims from around the world.

Visitors to the Mission can learn about San Diego's colonial past and experience the world of California before it became part of the U.S. and a state. They can also get a sense of calm and relaxation while strolling along the quiet gardens and peaceful setting.

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What to Expect When You Visit

The Mission is an active parish church, but it is also open to visitors. It's conveniently located in the San Diego Central Inland area and close to major freeways, I-15 and I-8. The Mission, grounds and museum offer self-guided tours or guided tours led by one of the staff members on site.

Visitors on the self-guided tour get a map and a brochure to help them navigate their way around the Mission's grounds. School groups and other tour groups get an expert to lead them through the Mission's different sites.

Tourists exploring this attraction should expect to walk around the Mission's interior buildings and extensive outdoor gardens and grounds. The Mission also offers special events, both centered around religious celebrations and California's historical heritage, throughout the year.

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Exhibits/Attractions

The Mission features several different attractions among its grounds for visitors. The attractions are focused on the site's 250-year history and its religious significance in the Roman Catholic church.

Parish Church

The Mission is centered around its parish church, which is currently active in the San Diego archdiocese. The church offers the holy sacraments to its community and church members, including baptism, confirmation, holy eucharist, matrimony, holy orders, anointing of the sick and penance.

Mass

As an active church, the Mission also holds mass several times a week. On weekdays and on Saturdays, mass is held twice daily at 7:00 am and 5:30 pm. On Sundays, there is a mass in the morning, folk music, congregational singing and a Spanish mass.

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National Historic
The original mission was burned in 1775 during an uprising by local natives. The current church, built in the early 19th century, is the fifth to stand on this location. The mission site is a National Historic.

Chapel

The Saint Francis Chapel houses mass a few times a week in Spanish. The chapel was built in the 1970s and donated to the Mission. Inside, visitors can see a set of historic choir stalls that date back to the 15th century.

Artwork

Inside of the Mission church, visitors can see examples of religious paintings and sculptures. Some of the pieces date back to the 15th century.

Bell Tower

The iconic bell tower of the Mission's white façade is another big attraction to see. It's a 46-foot Campanaro or bell tower wall featuring five bells. One bell is original, dating back to 1802. Another one of the larger bells was recast from parts of the original Mission bells.

Archaeological Site

The southern region of the Mission grounds contains what is left of the original convent that stood here in the early 19th century. There is an ongoing archaeological dig here that has yielded artifacts like clothing, tools, weapons and pottery. Items excavated are displayed in the museum.

Casa de los Padres

The Casa de los Padres is a historical display of how the Mission looked when it was first constructed in the late 18th century. Visitors can see an interpretive layout of the rooms of the early founders, complete with historically-accurate furnishings.

Museum

The Mission provides its collection of historical artifacts on display. There are also Kumeyaay artifacts to see, including a hut and a cooking oven.

Meditation Garden

In the center courtyard is a serene meditation garden. It features gorgeous palm trees, a quiet path and colorful flowers.

Gift Shop

The gift shop sells a variety of souvenirs. It also has brochures, maps and other pieces of information that are helpful when navigating the grounds.

Educational Programs

The Mission supports the California state educational social studies curriculum. All fourth-grade students complete a project on California's missions, and students can access aspects of the Mission to help them understand its historical and religious significance.

Educators can book class tours through the Mission's coordinators and support the social studies unit. The educational tours primarily focus on the history of the Mission. It also gives information about the culture of the native people and the early Spanish settlers.

The parish church also offers religious education programs for young people. There are religious classes offered to children from ages four to 8th grade. High school students can enroll in the church's two-year Sacrament of Confirmation program.

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Know Before You Go & Tips

Before heading out to Mission San Diego de Alcala, it's important to know the following tips:

  • Be sure to check the mass schedule before visiting, especially if there is a holiday coming up.
  • During the Christmas and Easter season, the Mission may hold more mass celebrations, religious music concerts and other special events for visitors and church parishioners.
  • Take some time to ask questions and get information from the staff at the Mission's gift shop. The clerks working there often are eager to answer visitors' questions and tell them more stories about the Mission.
  • To avoid climbing the length of stairs at the entrance, drive up to the Mission's driveway. There may be some parking available if visitors get there early.
  • The San Diego Trolley makes a stop near here. Simply take the trolley to the Mission San Diego stop and walk a few blocks to the Mission.
  • This Mission is the first stop of the El Camino Real self-guided pathway of California Missions. There are 20 other Missions to see on the historical tour.

The Mission San Diego de Alcala is a place that shouldn't be missed. It's the birthplace of Roman Catholicism in California and one of the most interesting historical landmarks of colonial San Diego.

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