Mission San Francisco de Asís

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Mission San Francisco de Asís
Mission San Francisco de Asís
The original adobe Mission San Francisco de Asís (on the left) and the Mission Dolores Basilica (on the right)[1]
Mission San Francisco de Asís is located in San Francisco
Mission San Francisco de Asís
Location in Central San Francisco
Mission San Francisco de Asís is located in California
Mission San Francisco de Asís
Mission San Francisco de Asís (California)
Mission San Francisco de Asís is located in the United States
Mission San Francisco de Asís
Mission San Francisco de Asís (the United States)
Location320 Dolores Street
San Francisco, California 94114
Coordinates37°45′51.8″N 122°25′37.3″W / 37.764389°N 122.427028°W / 37.764389; -122.427028Coordinates: 37°45′51.8″N 122°25′37.3″W / 37.764389°N 122.427028°W / 37.764389; -122.427028
Name as foundedLa Misión de Nuestro Padre San Francisco[2]
English translationThe Mission of Our Father Saint Francis of Assisi
PatronSaint Francis of Assisi[3]
Nickname(s)"Mission Dolores"[4][5]
Founding priest(s)Francisco Palóu; Junípero Serra
Founding OrderSixth[3]
Military districtFourth[6]
Native tribe(s)
Spanish name(s)
Native place name(s)Chutchui[7]
Burials11,000= 5,000 (Europeans/Americans), 6,000 (Indians)[8]
Returned to the Church1857[3]
Governing bodyRoman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco
Current useParish Church
Reference no.#72000251
Official name: Site of original Mission Dolores chapel and Dolores Lagoon[9]
Reference no.327-1
DesignatedApril 11, 1968[10]
Reference no.1

Mission San Francisco de Asís (Spanish: Misión San Francisco de Asís), commonly known as Mission Dolores (as it was founded near the Dolores creek), is a Spanish Californian mission and the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. Located in the Mission District, it was founded on October 9, 1776, by Padre Francisco Palóu (a companion of Junípero Serra) and co-founder Fray Pedro Benito Cambón, who had been charged with bringing Spanish settlers to Alta California and with evangelizing the local indigenous Californians, the Ohlone. The present mission building was the second structure for the site and was dedicated in 1791.

Next to the old mission is the Mission Dolores Basilica, built in 1918 in an elaborate California Churrigueresque style. This larger church replaced a brick parish of 1876, which had been destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The elaborate church was raised to the dignity of a Catholic basilica by Pope Pius XII in 1952.


The settlement was named for Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, but was also commonly known as "Mission Dolores" owing to the presence of a nearby creek named Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, meaning "Our Lady of Sorrows Creek."[11] During the expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza, this site was identified by Pedro Font as the most suitable site for a mission in the San Francisco area.[12]

The original mission was a small structure dedicated on October 9, 1776, after the required church documents arrived. It was located near what is today the intersection of Camp and Albion Streets (according to some sources),[13] about a block-and-a-half east of the surviving adobe Mission building, and on the shores of the now filled Laguna de Los Dolores.[4] A historical marker at that location depicts this lake, but whether it ever actually existed is a matter of some dispute. (Creek geologists Janet Sowers and Christopher Richard propose that the legendary lake is the result of misunderstandings of Juan Bautista de Anza's 1776 writings. According to their 2011 hydrological map, there were no lakes in the area, only creeks.)[14]

The present mission church, near what is now the intersection of Dolores and 16th Streets, was dedicated in 1791. At the time of dedication, a mural painted by native labor adorned the focal wall of the chapel. The mission was constructed of adobe and was part of a complex of buildings used for housing, agricultural, and manufacturing enterprises (see architecture of the California missions). Though most of the mission complex, including the quadrangle and Convento, has either been altered or demolished outright during the intervening years, the façade of the mission chapel has remained relatively unchanged since its construction in 1782–1791.[citation needed]

According to mission historian Guire Cleary, the early 19th century saw the greatest period of activity at San Francisco de Asís:

At its peak in 1810–1820, the average Indian population at Pueblo Dolores was about 1,100 people. The California missions were not only houses of worship, but they were agricultural communities, manufacturers of all sorts of products, hotels, ranches, hospitals, schools, and the centers of the largest communities in the state. In 1810 the Mission owned 11,000 sheep, 11,000 cows, and thousands of horses, goats, pigs, and mules. Its ranching and farming operations extended as far south as San Mateo and east to Alameda. Horses were corralled on Potrero Hill, and the milking sheds for the cows were located along Dolores Creek at what is today Mission High School. Twenty looms were kept in operation to process wool into cloth. The circumference of the Mission's holdings was said to have been about 125 miles.[15]

The mission chapel, along with "Father Serra's Church" at Mission San Juan Capistrano, is one of only two surviving buildings where Junípero Serra is known to have officiated (although "Dolores" was still under construction at the time of Serra's visit). In 1817, Mission San Rafael Arcángel was established as an Asistencia to act as a hospital for the mission, though it would later be granted full mission status in 1822. The Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) strained relations between the Mexican government and the California missions. Supplies were scant, and the Indians who worked at the missions continued to suffer terrible losses from disease and cultural disruption (more than 5,000 Indians are thought to have been buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Mission). In 1834, the Mexican government enacted secularization laws whereby most church properties were sold or granted to private owners. In practical terms, this meant that the missions would hold title only to the churches, the residences of the priests, and a small amount of land surrounding the church for use as gardens. In the period that followed, Mission Dolores fell on very hard times. By 1842, only eight Christian Indians were living at the mission.[15]

Mission Dolores, 1856
Mission San Francisco de Asís around 1910. The wooden addition has been removed and a portion of the brick Gothic Revival church is visible at right. The large stone church was severely damaged in the 1906 earthquake.[1]

The California Gold Rush brought renewed activity to the Mission Dolores area. In the 1850s, two plank roads were constructed from what is today downtown San Francisco to the mission, and the entire area became a popular resort and entertainment district.[16] Some of the mission properties were sold or leased for use as saloons and gambling halls. Racetracks were constructed, and fights between bulls and bears were staged for crowds. The mission complex also underwent alterations. Part of the Convento was converted to a two-story wooden wing for use as a seminary and priests' quarters, while another section became the "Mansion House," a popular tavern and way station for travelers.[17] By 1876, the Mansion House portion of the Convento had been razed and replaced with a large Gothic Revival brick church, designed to serve the growing population of immigrants who were now making the mission area their home.[citation needed]

During this period, wood clapboard siding was applied to the original adobe chapel walls as both a cosmetic and a protective measure; the veneer was later removed when the mission was restored. During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the adjacent brick church was destroyed. By contrast, the original adobe mission, though damaged, remained in relatively good condition. However, the ensuing fire touched off by the earthquake reached almost to the mission's doorstep. To prevent the spread of flames, the Convent and School of Notre Dame across the street were dynamited by firefighters; nevertheless, nearly all the blocks east of Dolores Street and north of 20th street were consumed by flames. In 1913, construction began on a new church (now known as the Mission Dolores Basilica) adjacent to the mission, which was completed in 1918. This structure was further remodeled in 1926 with churrigueresque ornamentation inspired by the Panama-California Exposition held in San Diego's Balboa Park. A sensitive restoration of the original adobe mission was undertaken in 1917 by architect Willis Polk. In 1952, San Francisco Archbishop John J. Mitty announced that Pope Pius XII had elevated Mission Dolores to the status of a minor basilica. This was the first designation of a basilica west of the Mississippi and the fifth basilica named in the United States. Today, the larger, newer church is called "Mission Dolores Basilica" while the original adobe structure retains the name of Mission Dolores.[citation needed]

The interior of the Mission chapeolores

Other historic designations[edit]


Statue of Junípero Serra[edit]

A full-length portrait sculpture of Junípero Serra is on the property of the mission. The cast stone sculpture, by Arthur Putnam, was completed in 1909, cast between 1916 and 1917, and installed in 1918 when the mission was remodeled. Funding for the piece came from D.J. McQuarry and it cost $500 to cast. It is approximately 6 ft 6 in tall. The sculpture depicts Serra wearing a Franciscan friar's robe belted at the waist with a knotted rope and a rosary around his neck. He looks down, with his head bowed and eyes downward. The sculpture is on a concrete base. It is one of a series of allegorical figures commissioned by the estate of E. W. Scripps to depict California history. In 1993 it was examined by the Smithsonian Institution's Save Outdoor Sculpture! program. The program determined that the sculpture was well maintained.[21]

Succession of rectors, pastors, and administrators[edit]

  • Francisco Palóu and Pedro Benito Cambón – June 27, 1776 (founders)
  • Francisco Palóu – June 27, 1776 – 1784
  • Eugene O'Connell – 1854[22]
  • Richard Carroll – 1854–1860
  • John J. Prendergast – 1860–1867
  • Thomas Cushing – 1867–1875
  • Richard P. Brennan – 1875–1904
  • Patrick Cummins – 1904–1916
  • John W. Sullivan – 1916–1939
  • Thomas A. Connolly – 1939–1948 (first auxiliary bishop, first rector)[23]
  • James T. O'Dowd – 1948–1950 (rector)
  • Merlin Guilfoyle, VG – 1950–1969 (rector)
  • Norman F. McFarland – 1970–1974 (last rector)[24]
  • Richard S. Knapp – 1974, 1974–1983 (served first as administrator, then pastor)
  • John J. O'Connor – 1983–1997
  • Maurice McCormick – 1997–2003
  • William J. Justice – 2003–2007 (Became a bishop after he left Mission Dolores)
  • Arturo Albano – 2007– 2015
  • Francis Mark P Garbo - 2015–Present

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Krell, p. 148
  2. ^ Worden / Leffingwell, p. 149
  3. ^ a b c d Krell, p. 139
  4. ^ a b Young, p. 117
  5. ^ Yenne, p. 64
  6. ^ Forbes, p. 202
  7. ^ Ruscin, p. 195
  8. ^ a b Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
  9. ^ California Historical Marker is located on Camp and Albion Streets
  10. ^ "City of San Francisco Designated Landmarks". City of San Francisco. Archived from the original on 2014-03-25. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
  11. ^ Olmsted, Nancy (1986). Vanished Waters: A History of San Francisco's Mission Bay. San Francisco: Mission Creek Conservancy. ISBN 0961149213.
  12. ^ Zephyrin Engelhardt (1912). The Missions and Missionaries of California, Volume II: Upper California. p. 181.
  13. ^ Kenneth Robert Zinns, The Urban Tradition Patterns of Building in San Francisco's Inner Mission (Berkeley: the University of California Dept. of Architecture, 1984), 6; repeated in e.g. Alastair Worden and Randy Leffingwell, California Missions & Presidios (Beverly MA: Voyageur Press), 173; ISBN 1610603648
  14. ^ Amy Standen (2011-10-29). "New Water Map Washes Away An Urban Legend". NPR. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
  15. ^ a b Cleary
  16. ^ Johnson, p. 129
  17. ^ Johnson, p. 130
  18. ^ deSign, Ted Whipple / incite. "San Francisco Landmarks". www.friendsof1800.org.
  19. ^ a b California, California State Parks, State of. "San Francisco". CA State Parks.
  20. ^ California, California State Parks, State of. "San Mateo". CA State Parks.
  21. ^ "Father Junipero Serra, (sculpture)". Save Outdoor Sculpture!. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  22. ^ "San Francisco". www.newadvent.org. April 20, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  23. ^ "Archbishop Thomas Arthur Connolly". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  24. ^ "Thomas Arthur Connolly" (PDF). Diocese of Orange. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-30. Retrieved 2010-04-20.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]