The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel is less than an hour’s drive from my home. Since I seem to have been writing a lot lately about California historical sites, what better place to visit? Probably every school child knows more about California missions than I do since it’s a required study in elementary school. I expected to see a few school busses in the parking lot but was fortunate. There was only one.
Altogether we have twenty-one missions. These were built by the Spanish in an effort to extend their holdings northward. The Franciscan priests may have seen this more as an effort to spread Christianity to the native peoples of the new Spanish province called Alta California. The fourth of these outposts is the San Gabriel mission, founded in 1771.
Whenever I see a date like that I try to grasp what else was going on in the world. On the eastern side of the continent, the French and Indian War ended in 1763. The Boston Tea Party took place in 1773. And in California in 1775 the original mission was being relocated to its current location.
The church was completed in 1805. I’m told this is a Moorish style church modeled after a cathedral in Cordoba, Spain. It’s those buttress and the narrow windows. The inside of the church is long, narrow and dark. A docent was speaking to a group while I was there. The image below was shot very quietly for six seconds. The “ghost” in front of the pews is just someone moving around. The long exposure caused the blur.
The grounds of the mission are large, containing a cemetery and a museum with free-standing displays in the central courtyard. This mission was a successful farming enterprise with vineyards, cattle and sheep, and crops like wheat and corn. Many areas related to this. They made wine and soap and candles. One can still see large tanks that were possibly used for tanning hides. The cemetery, the Campo Santo, was established in 1778 making it the oldest cemetery in Los Angeles County. There is a massive grape vine covering the walkway.
As with so many of my adventures, this one too raised a lot of questions. One thing is certain; I want to read up on my California history.