The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission Santa Clara
Founded January 12, 1777

Founding of the mission

Mission Santa Clara de Asis was founded on January 12, 1777 by Father Junipero Serra, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. It was the 8th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Clare of Assisi, founder of the order "Poor Clares". Santa Clara was the first mission to be named after a woman. The mission had a very slow start. Lt. Moraga, Father Tomas de la Pena, some mission Indians, and soldiers with their families came to start the mission. With so few people to help, the walls went up slowly. The mission is a day's journey from Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores) and was established to help protect the San Fransico Bay area. The church is 100 feet long, 44 feet wide and 25 feet high.

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Local Indians
Click here to see a video of the Mission Cemetery

The local Indians were friendly and hungry. By 1800, there were 1,247 Indians living at the mission. They were learning trades like weaving, farming, leather tanning, and tool making. One of the reasons that the Indians liked the mission was Father Jose Viader. He was kind and forgiving and taught the Indians mission music. He developed an Indian choir which was well known throughout the mission chain.

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Economy of the mission

The economy at Mission Santa Clara de Asis was similar to the other missions in that they planted crops of wheat and corn. They also planted vineyards, and raised cattle and sheep. The agriculture was needed not only to maintain the mission community and the nearby Indians, but was used for trade and served to visitors to the mission. The Indians learned the trades well. Crops and orchards of fruit grew well and olive trees grew well. Their wheat crop was among the best at any mission. They also had thousands of livestock roaming the mission lands.

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The community
Click here to see a video Inside the Mission Quadrangle

There was tension between the people of Mission Santa Clara de Asis and those in nearby Pueblo San Jose. They disputed ownership rights of land and water. The tension was relieved when a road was built by 200 Indians to link the communities together. On Sundays, people from San Jose would come to the mission for services.

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After Mexico won its independence from Spain, it found that it could no longer afford to keep the missions running as Spain had done. In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission system and sell all of the lands. They offered the lands to the Indians who did not want the lands or could not come up with the purchase price. The lands were divided into smaller Ranchos and sold to Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence. After nearly 30 years, the missions were returned to the Catholic Church. Although some of the missions had already been returned to the church, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act declaring that all of the 21 missions in the California mission chain would become the property of the Catholic Church and have remained so since that time.

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In 1850, California became a state and the Jesuit order of priests took over the Mission Santa Clara de Asis. Father John Nobili was put in charge of the mission. He began a college on the mission site, this school grew into the Santa Clara University. It is the only mission to become part of a university. It is also the oldest university in California. Throughout the history of the mission, the bells have rung faithfully every evening. This was a promise made to King Charles IV of Spain when he sent the original bells to the mission in 1777. He asked that the bells be rung each evening at 8:30 in memory of those who had died.

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Current use

Mission Santa Clara de Asis sits on the campus of the Santa Clara University. It is used as a church for the university and the community. It is open to visitors and has a museum on the campus.

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Graphic tour
Click below to see a video Inside the Mission Church
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Mission Quiz

Objective: answer 7 questions correctly. JavaScript required!

1. Who was the founder of Mission Santa Clara de Asis?

Juan Crespi
Gaspar de Portola
Junipero Serra
Fermin Lasuen

2. Mission Santa Clara de Asis was founded....?

January 12, 1777
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. Who was Mission Santa Clara de Asis named after?

Saint Cross
Saint Clare of Assisi
Santa Claus
Santa Cruz

4. Mission Santa Clara de Asis is know as...?

a friendly mission
having the best wheat crop in all of the missions
the university mission
being able to keep a promise

5. Who did the actual building of the missions?

construction companies
the priests
the soldiers
the local Indians

6. What happened to the missions in 1834?

They opened
The Indians took over

7. Santa Clara de Asis is the only mission...?

that has been completely rebuilt
without a church
to be part of a university
to have a school

8. What did Father Jose Viader do for the Indians at the mission?

beat them into slavery
treated them poorly and made them work for food
taught music and created an Indian choir
gave them a college education

9. What happened in 1850?

the mission was closed
Pueblo San Jose took over the mission
a university was started at the mission

10. What did Abraham Lincoln agree to in 1863?

Formally return the Mission lands to the Church
Run for President of the United States
Visit the San Antonio de Padua Mission
force the Indians to leave the Mission

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The Mission Page | The Assessment Page |Main Page

Other Santa Clara sites:

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions Interactive Homepage

California Missions

California Missions

This project written by Rob Garretson in partial fulfilment of the Master's of Arts Degree from Cal Poly Pomona

Please send questions and/or comments to Mr. Garretson

This page last updated on February 28, 2015