Mission San Diego de Alcala

  A Historical Treasure Close to Home

Trip Report 20170603

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The Experience

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 museum.

The inner courtyard is mostly parking area, but it is ringed with old adobe structures and the center has a nice, though understated, fountain.

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 blooms.

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 ornament.

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.

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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