Mission San Diego de
Historical Treasure Close to Home
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San Diego is a relatively
old city, as cities go in the west. San Diego bay was
"discovered" in 1542 by Cabrillo, but an outpost was not
established here until 1769. As was the case in most sites
in early California the Catholic church was spearheading the
missionary process. The church established a series of
missions to serve as bases for support of the military and to
convert the locals. Early San Diego had two missions, one at
the Presidio near San Diego Bay and later Mission San Diego de
Alcala. We had never been to Mission San Diego, so we got in
the car and headed to check it out.
San Diego's shopping areas are located in Mission Valley, named
for Mission San Diego de Alcala which is located a few miles from
the ocean at a gentle bend in the San Diego River. Back in
the day, this was an isolated area, but now the Mission is hemmed
in on all sides by high-density housing and condos. But,
despite the encroachment of modern living, the mission retains the
flavor of an era gone by. Today, Mission San Diego still
serves as a parish church with services every week.
The photos below are
what we saw.
I usually don't associate marketing with churches, but there was
a very discrete sign next to San Diego Mission Road that
describes the facility
The facade of the structure has been rebuilt a number of
times. There was a substantial earthquake in the early
1800s that destroyed most of the adobe structure. The
structure was rebuilt in 1812.
The church was built on a hill side, likely to mitigate the
threat of floods from the nearby San Diego River. While
rain is infrequent, occasional storms can cause substantial
flooding in Mission Valley. Today, the front portion of
the church is driveways and lush landscaping.
The central portion of the church is accessible from the
front. While modest by Gothic standards, the structure was
built with native materials that were not robust enough to
create immense multi-story structures that were common in
Europe. Note that the width of the beams in the ceiling
vary from beam to beam indicating they were hand-cut.
The sign provides a short history of the area in general and the
mission in particular.
While the State of California sucks at many things, one thing
they do excel at is historical plaques. Each of the
registered historical landmarks has a brass plaque that provides
a brief history of the location.
The Mission has a modest entrance fee and once into the inner
courtyard we could see that there was archeological exploration
in progress. These remains appear to be from the early
1800s and may have been destroyed during the earthquakes.
Artifacts recovered from the dig were displayed in the mission's
The inner courtyard is mostly parking area, but it is ringed
with old adobe structures and the center has a nice, though
The garden area was quite lush and had many plants in bloom.
A large bougainvillea bush in bloom dominated the garden with
bright purple flowers and a pleasing scent.
The arched walkways covered with Spanish tile provided a
classical ambiance to the garden.
There were a set of old millstones in the garden.
Kathleen was working her Fuji camera on some of the flower
I forgot that Mission San Diego is an active church and we
stumbled upon an afternoon wedding. The bride arrived in
this classic Rolls-Royce.
The car was in great shape and had the classic Rolls radiator
Some of the newer structures on the site were painted to blend
in with the old adobe architecture.
Cactus seeds had sprouted in the bark of a pepper tree
establishing an airborne colony.
A statue of Father Junipero Serra, founder of the mission.
San Diego de Alcala is steeped in the area's history, and in
many cases played a key role in developments. It was our
first trip to the mission and it was interesting. It is
worth a visit if you are in the area.
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