Mission San Gabriel Archangel, San Gabriel

#138 of 458 in Historic Sites in California
Must see · Mission · Specialty Museum
Mission San Gabriel Arcángel (Spanish: Misión de San Gabriel Arcángel) is a Roman Catholic mission and historic landmark in San Gabriel, California. The settlement was founded by Spaniards of the Franciscan order on "The Feast of the Birth of Mary," September 8, 1771, as the fourth of what would become twenty-one Spanish missions in California. San Gabriel Arcángel was named after the Archangel Gabriel and often referred to as the "Godmother of the Pueblo of Los Angeles." The mission was built and run using what has been described as slave labor from nearby Tongva villages, such as Yaanga. When the nearby Pueblo de los Ángeles was built in 1781, the mission competed with the emerging pueblo for control of Indigenous labor.
The mission was designed by Antonio Cruzado, who gave the building its capped buttresses and the tall narrow windows, which are unique among the missions of the California chain. A large stone cross stands in the center of the Campo Santo (cemetery), first consecrated in 1778 and then again on January 29, 1939, by the Los Angeles Archbishop John Cantwell. It serves as the final resting place for some 6,000 "neophytes;" a small stone marker denotes the gravesite of José de los Santos, the last American Indian to be buried on the grounds, at the age of 101 in February 1921.

Also interred at the Mission are the bodies of numerous Franciscan priests who died during their time of service, as well as the remains of Reverend Raymond Catalan, C.M.F., who undertook the restoration of the Mission's gardens. Entombed at the foot of the altar are the remains of eight Franciscan priests (listed in order of interment): Miguel Sánchez, Antonio Cruzado, Francisco Dumetz, Ramón Ulibarri, Joaquín P. Núñez, Gerónimo Boscana, José Bernardo Sánchez, and Blas Ordaz. Buried among the priests is centenarian Eulalia Pérez de Guillén Mariné, the "keeper of the keys" under Spanish rule; her grave is marked by a bench dedicated in her memory.

According to Spanish legend, the founding expedition was confronted by a large group of native Tongva peoples whose intention was to drive the strangers away. One of the priests laid a painting of "Our Lady of Sorrows" on the ground for all to see, whereupon the natives, designated by the settlers as the Gabrieleños, immediately made peace with the missionaries, because they were so moved by the painting's beauty. Today the 300-year-old work hangs in front of and slightly to the left of the old high altar and reredos in the Mission's sanctuary. Resistance to the mission by the Tongva was recorded and how much the neophytes embraced Catholicism remains a subject of debate among scholars.
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Mission San Gabriel Archangel reviews

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  • Very interesting historical mission! It was established in the 1770s! And it was one of the most prolific of missions due to large numbers of baptisms. I had no idea we had these kind of historical...  more »
  • This mission is one of 22 built during the Spanish reign of California, and one of my favorites. Worthwhile to pay for a ticket to go through the gardens and original chapel .... Very educational.  more »
  • San Gabriel Mission, like nearly all the missions, is absolutely gorgeous. The courtyard area is wonderfully landscaped and it is a fantastic place to take photos. It is amazing to see California history kept in such lovely state. Everyone I encountered who worked there was phenomenal. I'd highly recommend anyone in the area to visit a local mission. You get a sense of what California was like long ago, before the hustle and bustle of the big city.
  • I have been visiting all the old California missions. This is the 18th one of the 21 that I have visited. Nice people here. This is rather small, but it is still quite nice. $5 to go on the self-guided tour. The church is nice with it's stained glass window that give the church a green tint. Very nice grounds with lots of cactus plants. Nice exhibits. Good for less than an hour, but not to be missed. I like the bell tower.

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